Thank you for contacting me about World Arthritis Day.
I am aware that this year’s focus is on the recovery from COVID-19. I commend Versus Arthritis for their important work on this and other campaigns which help raise awareness and support advocacy on behalf of all those who suffer with arthritis.
I am so grateful to everyone who has worked so hard to stay at home throughout the pandemic: your efforts have undoubtedly saved lives, and enabled our NHS to provide urgent treatment like cancer and emergency care. Of course, the need to focus on the response to the pandemic meant resources were diverted to tackling the pandemic resulting now in a significant backlog in elective care. In England, 5.5 million people are currently waiting for treatment, at least 900,000 more than before the pandemic, with around 380,000 of those having been waiting more than a year. This is in addition to the unknowable number of people who have not contacted their GP when, in ordinary times, they would have reached out for help. I agree that we must act urgently to tackle this problem.
That is why I am glad that the Government is investing an additional £12 billion per year over the next three years in health and social care. I welcome the Government’s commitment to tackling the elective backlog through the biggest catch up programme in the NHS’s history. £2 billion will be spent this year, double the previous commitment, with an additional £8 billion to be spent in the following three years. This welcome funding could deliver the equivalent of around 9 million more checks, scans and procedures and will mean NHS England can aim to deliver around 30 per cent more elective activity by 2024-25 than before the pandemic. This investment in elective surgery and diagnostic facilities will be vital in allowing those who suffer with arthritis to access the care they need and I believe that these measures and additional funding will help support the reduction in treatment backlogs.
I know that staff throughout the NHS are working extremely hard to tackle the backlog: in January and February 2021 NHS staff completed almost 2 million operations and other elective care while also providing treatment to 140,000 COVID-19 patients in England.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.