Response to the NHS England Elective Recovery Plan
Tuesday 8 February 2022
Responding to the publication of the NHS Elective Recovery Plan, Dr Mike Nathanson, President of the Association of Anaesthetists, said:
“The Association of Anaesthetists is pleased to see a plan to clear the backlog. We would like to thank Sir Jim Mackey for his work on this, and we particularly welcome plans to deliver more surgical hubs, which should help ease some of the pressure and build resilience in services.
“However, it remains disappointing to not have an accompanying plan from the Government to address longstanding workforce gaps that have been a major factor in the backlog growing to record levels."
“It was also right for the Health Secretary to acknowledge the health disparities that have widened as waiting lists have grown, and to remind the public that the NHS is open, so people should still come forward for treatment.
“However, it remains disappointing to not have an accompanying plan from the Government to address longstanding workforce gaps that have been a major factor in the backlog growing to record levels.
“Anaesthetics is an understaffed workforce – with an estimated shortage of 1,400 anaesthetists – that has been working under considerable strain during the pandemic, and reports of fatigue, burnout and stress, which were a growing problem before the pandemic, have become more serious. We are concerned that without a detailed workforce recruitment and retention plan, especially after the Health Secretary claimed today that waiting lists will continue rising until March 2024, that the laudable aims of the plan will not be met without potentially undermining patient safety.
“So if the Government really is serious about helping us clear backlog, they will work with us, and bodies representing other specialties, and listen to the concerns we have been raising for some time about the need for a long-term workforce plan.”