Patients on the NHS elective wait list will be given online support to help them get fit for surgery, the Government has announced.
The ‘My Planned Care’ platform, which is launching on the NHS website later this month, will also keep patients up to date regarding waiting times.
Patients using the platform, which is later expected to also move onto the NHS App, could receive advice on stopping smoking, mental health or diet and exercise regimes.
NHS England said this comes as a third of on-the-day surgery cancellations happen because the patient is not ‘clinically ready for treatment’.
This could be because patients have a long-term condition such as diabetes or high blood pressure which has not been identified or treated properly.
The elective recovery plan will give more insight into the strategy, and will outline plans to ‘roll out access to specialist teams’ who will help develop the guidelines for patients ahead of surgery, NHS England added.
The Department of Health and Social Care said the plans would be created ‘in partnership with clinicians’, but a spokesperson told Pulse on background that they did not believe there would be a specific GP role.
However, NHS England said support teams ‘made up of nurses, care-coordinators and doctors’ would be in place from April 2023.
The perioperative teams will screen patients, identifying those who need more support before and after surgery, it said.
The care teams will also pick out low-risk patients for whom face-to-face preoperative assessments are not necessary, and those who can be seen in elective hubs instead of hospitals.
Health secretary Sajid Javid said: ‘At the height of the pandemic the NHS rightly focused on treating Covid-19 patients, but sadly it has meant waiting lists have risen – and the Covid backlog is going to keep rising.
‘This platform, combined with our record funding to tackle the backlog and invest in innovative diagnosis and treatment will help us ensure access to life changing care and support for people no matter who they are or where they live.’
NHS England chief executive Amanda Pritchard said: ‘Last minute cancellations for health reasons are not only a major source of frustration and anxiety for patients, but cost the NHS and taxpayers, so it’s absolutely right that we help people to get fighting fit for surgery.’
In response, BMA council chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said: ‘For doctors, who are desperate to provide the best care they can for patients, they will be waking up this morning incredibly concerned to hear that vital funding for the NHS is being held up once again.
‘The Government has been promising this plan for months now, and while the arrival of Omicron may have delayed this, healthcare staff now urgently need to know how leaders expect them to tackle the backlog in the months and years ahead, and crucially, provide resources to help them do this.
‘The workforce is exhausted and experiencing burnout after almost two years of battling a pandemic, and staring with great trepidation at the oncoming tsunami of work ahead. The Government owes it to these dedicated staff – and crucially, the patients painfully waiting for treatment – to lay out this strategy now, recognising the severity of the situation our health service faces. Politics must not be put before patients.’
A National Audit Office report recently warned that the NHS needs to work out how GPs can help clear the elective care backlog without ‘overloading’ them.