NHS England has said that pandemic recovery for general practice should have the ‘same focus as elective care’.
In a letter sent to trusts last week, NHS England acknowledged that the impact of the Covid pandemic ‘is not limited to elective care’.
It added that ‘challenges’ across primary care, urgent and emergency care, mental health and in the community should be ‘tackled in unison’ and given the same attention as the elective backlog.
The letter said: ‘We absolutely understand that the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic is not limited to elective care and that infection levels are still high. This can be seen across urgent and emergency care, mental health, primary care and in the community.
‘It will be important to give these areas the same focus as elective care and for the challenges in these areas to be tackled in unison.’
Models used to support ‘workforce improvement in elective care’ will be ‘transferable’, such as in ‘virtual wards’, it added.
Meanwhile, the letter – which focuses on ‘enabling the workforce for elective recovery’ – also said NHS England continues to ‘work with Government on ways to address concerns about barriers within the NHS Pension Scheme’.
It comes as it was revealed this week that the number of patients waiting to start treatment after referral to a specialist grew to 6.4 million in March – a new record high for the elective waiting list.
And it follows an admission from NHS England that plans for this year’s 10% increased elective activity target are to be mainly achieved through increased GP advice and guidance (A&G).
In February, the Government set out its long-awaited elective recovery plan which stressed that GPs’ role in tackling the NHS hospital backlog will focus on the use of A&G to try to avoid ‘unnecessary’ referrals to secondary care.
The Public Accounts Committee has said even if the NHS meets its targets for elective care, 1 million more patients will be on the waiting list posing a ‘huge risk’ to primary care.