A new survey from Mölnlycke, published today, reveals that 70 per cent of surgical professionals are concerned about the backlog of elective care procedures at their hospital trust.

With over four million patients now waiting to start their elective treatment, the new survey of over 500 surgical professionals has laid bare their perceptions of the impact of Covid-19 on elective care. 71 per cent of respondents stated that the number of patients waiting more than 18 weeks for elective care had increased in their hospital since March 2020. Of those respondants over half (55 per cent) said that it would take at least a year for their hospital trust to meet the 18-week referral to treatment target.

The survey highlights the extent to which Covid-19 has disrupted elective care and has allowed healthcare professionals to identifying the specific drivers for backlogs. They identified prioritisation of hospital beds (26 per cent), appointment cancellations (25 per cent), reprioritisation of staff (23 per cent) and extra theatre and kit preparation (22 per cent) as the top four causes of the elective backlog in their hospital trust.

Responding to the findings of the survey, Lindsay Keeley, Patient Safety & Quality Lead at the Association for Perioperative Practice said: “All of us, as healthcare professionals, need to adapt and overcome the barriers we face in order to create capacity and claw back productivity.

“We must also ensure that we build on the positive drivers for change which have emerged in the last year, such as the heightened awareness of reducing healthcare-acquired infections in elective care, by embedding best practice infection prevention procedures across the NHS.”

Key findings

  • 70 per cent of respondents said they are concerned about the backlog of procedures at their hospital trust.
  • 68 per cent believe that delays to surgical procedures are having a negative impact on patient outcomes.
  • 68 per cent of respondents also said that the delays to surgical procedures are having a negative impact on the morale of staff.

The survey does also reveal some positive outcomes of the Covid-19 pandemic on the way the NHS delivers care. Around 72 per cent of respondents agreed that Covid-19 has resulted in some changes to their service which should be maintained after the pandemic, such as improved infection prevention protocols or the introduction of new innovations into every day care.

With patient demand only set to increase across a range of clinical areas in the months ahead, there is now a clear case for increasing capacity in the coming months based on a comprehensive plan and funding for how this should be achieved.

John Timmons, International Medical Director, Mölnlycke, said: “Even prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, the NHS faced considerable pressures in meeting patient demand for elective care. This survey demonstrates the considerable impact of Covid-19 on both staff morale and patient outcomes. It is clear that recovering elective care procedures safely and sustainably should be a clear priority for the Government as it seeks to build back better from the pandemic.

“Mölnlycke is undertaking a range of programmes this year to help the NHS build back better in elective care, supporting hospitals to work smarter, not harder and drive efficiency across care pathways.”

The survey was conducted in December 2020 by Censuswide for Mölnlycke®, a world-leading medical solutions company.