Operations and other routine care are ahead of ambitions set in April, with mental health services back to pre-pandemic levels, NHS numbers show today.
The number of people waiting more than 52 weeks to start treatment dropped by more than 50,000 in April, while by May, operations and other elective activities had already risen to 90% of pre-pandemic levels, well ahead of the 75 limit. % established in official guidance.
The working team continued to recover from services interrupted during the pandemic, with 1.1 million people starting treatment and 1.8 million diagnostic tests performed in April, all in a context of having treated 400,000 patients with COVID-19 severely sick in the hospital since the beginning of the pandemic.
In addition, the NHS has administered more than 58 million COVID-19 vaccines in just six months.
New data shows that cancer services continued to rebound strongly, with more than 200,000 people referred for cancer screening in April, after a record the previous month.
The NHS also faced one of the busiest months on record in terms of emergency response in May, with staff responding to more than 800,000 incidents – an increase of over 70,000 over the previous two years.
In addition to the increased demand, emergency department workers are having to work differently than they did before the pandemic, with extra time needed to apply personal protective equipment and perform rapid COVID-19 tests on patients.
Social distancing and increased infection prevention control measures also meant fewer beds and less clinical space.
Professor Stephen Powis, National Medical Director, NHS England, said: “Despite the extensive disruption of care caused by the pandemic, it is encouraging that today’s numbers show that routine operations, cancer and mental health care have now dramatically recovered. The average wait for non-urgent care dropped to 11 weeks, and the number of people waiting longer than 52 weeks dropped by more than 50,000 in April. Mental health services have returned to pre-pandemic levels and cancer treatment rates have also returned to normal levels, with nearly nineteen out of twenty people starting treatment for the disease within a month.”
The NHS is committed to restoring services to pre-pandemic levels and has recently invested £1 billion in elective recovery.
O The Elective Accelerator program was announced last month and will see a dozen trusts and five specialist children’s hospitals receive a share of £160 million to increase the number of elective operations they carry out.
Sites are being supported to implement and evaluate new and innovative ways of working to get activity levels back on track.
Cancer treatment rates have returned to normal levels, with nearly 25,000 people starting treatment in April (24,963) – an increase of more than 4,000 from the same period last year (20,574), and more than nine out of ten people starting treatment treatment for the disease within a month (94.2%).
As recommended by the Cancer Task Force, the NHS is also publishing a faster diagnosis standard for cancer for the first time, so people can get a definitive or completely clear diagnosis within a month. This is part of the NHS Long Term Plan ambitions to catch more cancers at an earlier stage when they are easier to treat.
With the pandemic affecting the country’s mental health, important steps have been taken to restore services to pre-COVID-19 levels and there has been an increase in the number of patients referred to speech therapies for common disorders such as depression and anxiety.
Newly published data on mental health services show that Improving Access to Psychological Therapies referrals increased significantly to 159,140 in March 2021, an increase from 133,365 in February and from 108,330 in the previous year.
Waiting time standards continued to exceed targets and recovery rates reached an annual peak, remaining above the 50% standard.
The number of diagnostic tests, which include CT scans and biopsies, rose to 1,847,500 in April this year, a 202% increase since April 2020.
The average wait for routine operations dropped to 11 weeks from 11.6 weeks in March and a high of 19.6 weeks last July.
Waiting for diagnostic tests has also dropped, with the median now at 2.7 weeks, a three-quarter drop after the initial impact of the pandemic in May last year.