There were reports this week from NHS Confederations, one of the bodies that advises the Department of Health, that we are heading towards a backlog of 10 million NHS operations come autumn. That’s a tenfold increase since February this year – before the Coronavirus lockdown.
It’s a scary number and means that people are going to be waiting longer for the operations they need. Although we can expect an early resumption of timely cancer and cardiac services it’s inevitable that non-urgent procedures that are focused on pain relief are going to experience long delays. People who are living in pain and even whose quality of life is severely impaired will be facing long delays, examples would be hernia repairs, orthopaedic procedures, weight loss surgery, reflux disease etc. Although these are all important there will inevitably be higher priorities.
Our healthcare system has a track record of rising to the challenges it faces. Covid-19 is a perfect example of that.Martyn Berrett, former MD of Healthier Weight
On the face of it, this seems like very bad news. There is no denying that these stories will make grim reading for those awaiting surgery today and those who will be diagnosed in the months ahead, but there may be a silver lining.
The problem with NHS bureaucracy
Despite the wonderful patient care it delivers, the NHS could fairly be criticised for being slow moving at times, especially when it comes to bureaucracy. Most doctors and nurses would also say that the processes and procedures they follow are not always designed to encourage the greatest throughput of patients. Indeed, many choose and book services that are offered in private hospitals precisely because they can be delivered more quickly and efficiently there.
The demands placed on the NHS by the need to clear a 10 million procedure backlog will force it to look at different ways of working, and we are already seeing some evidence of that in two important ways:
- The NHS is working with the private hospitals to increase capacity, and
- New working practices are being discussed, such as running late into the evening or even through the night
There will be other changes too as the incredible creative and intellectual power of the NHS focuses on the challenge ahead.
Our healthcare system has a track record of rising to the challenges it faces, Covid 19 is a perfect example of that. The same will happen with surgery backlogs, and if we can look beyond the next year or so there is every chance we’ll end up with more efficient processes that enable us to treat more people in a timely way.
The silver lining for weight loss surgery
So, this particular cloud has a silver lining !
Looking at weight loss surgery procedures specifically, our expectation is that the NHS will find it very difficult to deliver services, at scale, in house. We therefore expect there to be a greater reliance on private providers. Already, more cases are done privately than in the NHS. We are expecting that a higher proportion of those people wanting surgery will need to fund it themselves.
If you have questions about weight loss surgery, prices and your funding options, call our team on 0800 313 4618 or click below to book a remote consultation.