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MPs seek evidence on clearing NHS backlog caused by pandemic

21 July 2021

The Committee has launched a new inquiry to quantify the level of pent-up demand for key healthcare services, and to consider whether fundamental changes to the organisation and delivery of NHS services will be required to manage the backlog of cases caused by the pandemic.

MPs will examine levels of funding, capacity, organisation and leadership for addressing the current backlog for non-covid health services, and concerns that these issues are likely to continue in the longer-term. There will be a focus on elective surgery, emergency care, General Practice, mental health, and long-covid.

Chair's comment

Health and Social Care Committee Chair Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP said: 

“With waiting lists in England projected to more than double in the coming months, we need to consider whether a more fundamental change will be needed in how we deliver NHS treatment.

“While additional funding will be critical, we also need to evaluate the way services are set up and organised in order to meet demand for non-covid care as well as treatment for conditions related to the pandemic, such as long-covid.

“This inquiry will consider what more can be done to ensure we have the right organisation to meet the huge challenge presented by the backlog, and make it possible for patients to get the care and treatment they need.”

The Clearing the backlog caused by the pandemic inquiry will build on the work of the Committee’s earlier inquiries, Delivering core health and care services during the pandemic and beyond and Workforce burnout and resilience in the NHS and social care. Some of the issues will also be explored by the Committee’s on-going inquiry into Cancer services.

Terms of reference

The Committee invites written submissions addressing any, or all, of the following points: 

  • What is the anticipated size of the backlog and pent-up demand from patients for different healthcare services including, for example, elective surgery; mental health services; cancer services; GP services; and more widely across the healthcare system?
  • What capacity is available within the NHS to deal with the current backlog? To what extent are the required resources in place, including the right number of staff with the right skills mix, to address the backlog?
  • How much financial investment will be needed to tackle the backlog over the short, medium, and long-term; and how should such investment be distributed? To what extent is the financial investment received to date adequate to manage the backlog?
  • How might the organisation and work of the NHS and care services be reformed in order to effectively deal with the backlog, in the short-term, medium-term, and long-term?
  • What positive lessons can be learnt from how healthcare services have been redesigned during the pandemic? How could this support the future work of the NHS and care services?
  • How effectively has the 111 call-first system for A&E Departments been? What can be done to improve this?
  • What can the Department of Health & Social Care, national bodies and local systems do to facilitate innovation as services evolve to meet emerging challenges?
  • To what extent is long-covid contributing to the backlog of healthcare services? How can individuals suffering from long-covid be better supported?

Evidence should be submitted here by close of play Friday 3 September.

Further information 

Image: PA