Growing evidence has emerged of the extraordinary commitment and innovation of NHS frontline staff to restore services for non-Covid-19 patients.

NHS Providers’ latest report: Restoring services: NHS activity tracker highlights some of the examples of outstanding work within the service, covering a wide range of activities and procedures, in a new series of briefings over the coming months.

Chief Executive of NHS Providers, Chris Hopson, commented: “Trust leaders worry that the current unrelenting focus on what the NHS is unable to do, as opposed to how rapidly it is recovering services, is also discouraging patients from coming forward to seek help when they need it.”

Trust leaders throughout the Covid-19 pandemic have been aware of the disruption and distress for many patients caused by the need to focus services to deal with the first peak of the pandemic. However, these leaders have sought to clarify claims that all non-Covid-19 care has come to a halt.  The report states that at the peak of the pandemic, for every Covid-19 patient in the hospital there were two non-Covid-19 patients being treated for other conditions. Trust leaders also pointed to mental health, ambulance and many community services, who continued to function at their pre-Covid-19 levels of activity, or higher.

Trusts are now working to restore those services which were interrupted to cope with Covid-19. This restoration is conducted through a range of Covid-19 related constraints that, for some trusts, have meant the loss of between 10 per cent and 30 per cent of their normal capacity.

These constraints include:

  • Loss of waiting room and/or bed capacity due to social distancing in acute, mental health and community settings
  • Loss of surgical and patient facing time in all settings due to the need to wear and change, with appropriate frequency, cumbersome personal protection equipment
  • Loss of access to diagnostic testing equipment and other physical equipment due to the need for deeper and more frequent cleaning between patient treatments
  • Loss of bed space and access levels to diagnostic equipment due to the division of estates into Covid and non Covid areas
  • Limitations on ambulance trust capacity due to the need for deep cleaning vehicles.

The report aims to highlight compelling case studies that show the spirit of resilience and resourcefulness that served the NHS so well at the height of the pandemic is alive and well as trusts rapidly recover service volumes.

Mr Chris Hopson, said: “But we also owe it to frontline NHS staff to recognise their hard work, their ingenuity and their persistence in overcoming a set of wicked constraints – lost beds, lost patient and surgical time, lost diagnostic test slots – because of the unavoidable need to protect patients from Covid-19.”

Examples from the first briefing include:

  • Restoring cancer screening and treatment services at Addenbrookes Hospital in Cambridge by compressing treatment times when it was safe to do so, extending opening hours and staff working weekends  
  • A new drive-through lung function testing system at Luton and Dunstable Hospital Foundation Trust
  • Increasing virtual outpatient appointments, expanding waiting room capacity and using private sector capacity for planned care in Epsom and St Helier University Hospitals
  • Finding new ways to maintain mental health services during the pandemic and working with service users to co-create a service in East London
  • Exceeding pre-Covid heart and lung transplant service activity and restoring cardiology services at Royal Papworth Hospital NHS Foundation Trust.