Collaboration urged to cut record waiting lists

By Robin Stride

The head of the private healthcare providers group has called for improved collaboration between the NHS and independent sector to thrash out lasting solutions to tackle waiting lists.

His plea came following an Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) report predicted it is ‘unlikely waiting lists will reach pre-pandemic levels’ by December 2027, even under a ‘best-case scenario’.

David Hare, chief executive of the Independent Healthcare Providers Network (IHPN), warned it was more crucial than ever for both sectors to work collaboratively and strategically to address waiting lists.

Joined-up approach

David Hare

He said while the independent sector was already playing a key role, the Government, the NHS and the wider healthcare sector now needed to implement, and be committed to, long-term solutions. 

‘Leveraging the expertise and capacity of independent providers can help alleviate pressure on the NHS and reduce waiting times for patients. But it’ll be most powerful with a long-term, joined-up approach that maximises the strengths of both sectors.

‘We are committed to working closely with the NHS and other stakeholders to develop innovative ways to deliver high-quality care to patients. Together, we can make a meaningful impact on waiting lists and ensure that patients receive the timely care they need.’

Tim Mitchell

Mr Tim Mitchell, president of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, views the IFS’s prediction as ‘deeply concerning’ and urged the Government to make a substantial investment in NHS technology and capital projects in tomorrow’s Spring Budget.

Sorry state

He said the longer patients waited on NHS lists, the greater the risk that their condition would worsen and they would need more complex surgery. ‘It is a sorry state for the patients behind the numbers; anxious for a diagnosis and treatment, in avoidable pain and with their lives put on hold.’ 

Rory Deighton, director of the NHS Confederation’s Acute Network, said: ‘The overall waiting list for routine hospital treatments has fallen three months in a row, while productivity in 2023 was higher than any year since the pandemic. 

‘But no one is under illusions that there is still a huge mountain to climb and, as this analysis shows, getting the backlog down is going to take a long time. It is important to remember that the backlog has been building for more than a decade and is not just due to the pandemic. 

‘Years of underinvestment in staff, pay, capital and infrastructure have created these long lists, and they won’t be resolved overnight.

“The ongoing industrial action and cancellation of thousands of operations and appointments is not helping, and without a resolution to the pay dispute work to tackle the waiting lists will continue to be jeopardised.’