Urgent changes are needed to address the elective care backlog, according to recommendations from healthcare professionals in a report released by Mölnlycke this week.

The Recovering Elective Care white paper brings together experts from across the healthcare system to examine the state of the elective care crisis, and develop a series of recommendations to drive down the elective care backlog.

The report, released by medical solutions provider Mölnlycke, has been developed following a roundtable with healthcare professionals and experts in elective care. With 7.1 million people on the waiting list, the elective care crisis is now the most significant challenge facing the NHS post-COVID. Health professionals are warning that delays in delivering elective care will lead to poorer health outcomes and increased pressure on the NHS.

The report provides an overview of the scale of this challenge, highlighting best practice across the healthcare system and issuing recommendations to help healthcare leaders to address the crisis. It also provides considerations for future research, suggesting how healthcare, government and industry stakeholders can work together to embed improvements in the NHS.

The Recovering Elective Care white paper discusses the health service’s learnings from COVID-19, calling for a renewed focus on increasing collaboration among the workforce and protecting staff from burnout. The report also explores how planning for surgeries and investing in innovative practices can support the elective care recovery.

Among the report’s recommendations are the implementation of shared decision-making and surgical prehabilitation procedures, including day surgeries, to help streamline patient waiting lists and provide crucial improvements to the patient experience.

The report issues eight recommendations for the Government, NHS, and industry partners to support the recovery of the surgical backlog, including:

  • The Government should consider implementing a programme to establish dedicated day surgery units and teams.
  • New guidelines should be established to use shared decision-making to prepare patients in secondary care settings, to support surgical teams to adjust elective care waiting lists in a way that is reflective of patient need.
  • A national NHS Task and Finish group should be established to explore the potential for greater implementation of value-based procurement models in reducing the elective backlog.

Commenting on the launch of the report, Deputy Director at the Centre for Perioperative Care and Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon, Professor Scarlett McNally, said: “The significant crisis facing us in elective care is a huge threat to our NHS, but it also represents an opportune moment to reconsider how we optimise patients for surgery.

“By increasing day case procedures, implementing shared decision-making between clinicians and patients, and standardising best practice across pathways, we can reduce waiting lists. As clinicians, we want to provide the best care we can for our patients – this report sets out recommendations to improve the patient’s experience of surgery, whilst improving efficiency and tackling the backlog to reduce pressure on the NHS.”

Mölnlycke’s Recovering Elective Care white paper

Global Medical Director at Mölnlycke, Dr Tod Brindle, said: “The current backlog in elective care presents the biggest challenge to delivering effective healthcare in the United Kingdom. Every time a surgical procedure is delayed, it is another patient unable to return to normal life or begin their recovery. In facilitating this report, we at Mölnlycke want to work in partnership with healthcare professionals and experts to understand how we can create a sustainable elective care recovery for the NHS, and identify how Mölnlycke can provide the solutions to support this.”

The Recovering Elective Care white paper is available to download here.