'Super Saturday' Clinics to Be Trialled to Tackle Growing Waiting Lists

Peter Russell

May 13, 2021

The NHS has announced a £160 million initiative to help tackle growing waiting lists in England following the pandemic but the BMA says the figure is ‘nowhere near enough’.

Under the proposal Saturday clinics, 'virtual wards', and home assessments would test new ways of working and accelerate the health service's recovery, NHS England said.

‘Elective Accelerators’

The scheme will see a dozen areas and five specialist children's hospitals designated 'elective accelerators' in a 3-month trial designed to address the treatment backlog.

Enhanced access to specialist advice for GPs, clinics that can deliver a high number of cataract operations, one stop testing facilities, and 'pop-up clinics', would enable "tens of thousands" more patients to be treated closer to home.

NHS England said it wanted to exceed the number of tests and treatments it could offer before the pandemic began.

Each elective accelerator site would receive a share of the funding being made available.

Amanda Pritchard, NHS England’s chief operating officer, said the funding would help clear the backlog of cases "in a way that doesn’t heap extra pressure on staff, so that as many people as possible benefit from the world-class care the NHS provides".

Waiting List Pressures

The announcement came as new figures showed that the total number of patients waiting 6 weeks or more from referral for one of the 15 key diagnostic tests increased by 219,600 by the end of March 2021, or 14.1%, since the same point in 2020.

NHS referral to treatment waiting times at the end of March stood at nearly 5 million patients, of whom 436,127 had been waiting more than a year.

An analysis by the BBC reported that some hospitals were struggling to treat half of their cancer patients within the target time of 2 months, while more than 1 in 10 patients in a quarter of trusts had been unable to access treatment for at least a year.

Elective treatment cases in the first 2 months of the year stood at more than 800,000, 70% higher than during the peak of the first wave, NHS England said, while average waiting times for planned surgery had fallen by almost 40% from July 2020.

Proposals 'Must Be Bolder and Properly Funded'

Commenting on the plans for elective accelerators, the British Medical Association (BMA) said the £160 million was nowhere near enough to fund care for patients who were waiting.

BMA Council Chair, Dr Chaand Nagpaul, said: "What we need to see is a workable plan that sufficiently supports the needs of the health service as a whole, and it is imperative that the allocation of funding and resources is reasonable and caters to the needs of primary, secondary, and community care – all of whom have been completely stretched in the past year."

He added: "The idea of GPs providing specialist clinics, or 'super Saturdays', also shows a grave lack of understanding of the rocketing workload and demand already facing GPs."

Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, said: "Trust leaders are telling us that, in the places with the biggest challenge, getting through the backlog could, on current trajectories, take between 3 to 5 years.

"We know this is unacceptable and that the NHS needs to develop a bold, radical, plan to go a lot faster, with appropriate extra funding from the Government."


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