Exploring the elective recovery challenge

The government anticipates 30% more elective activity by 2024-25. For NHS organisations and ICSs already battling significant waiting list backlogs, this adds to an existing challenge.

In our final In Conversation With of 2021, Liaison Workforce’s Ed Leonardo spoke with Suzanne Tracey, Chief Executive of the Royal Devon & Exeter NHS Foundation Trust, to gain an insight into how the system is addressing the challenge of returning elective recovery to pre-pandemic levels. Here, we pick out three key areas explored in the conversation…

  1. The effective use of data system-wide

On looking at the current position of elective care across the system, Suzanne described how effective data, and its use, was helping to establish needs and capacity: “Having that collective understanding of where the focus is and what the objectives are is helped by having the data to support it.

“We’ve found that we’re quite good at having the data on an individual organisation point of view, but bringing that together to create a system picture that we can all look at across the system has been a real piece of work. Having that view for the whole system and being able to understand where your areas or hot spots are, almost irrespective of which organisation, has been a really important lesson for us.”

  1. The challenge for the workforce

Since Ed and Suzanne’s conversation, analysis has been published by the HSJ for the three-month period to September 2021, which showed that the twelve systems in receipt of additional ‘accelerator’ funding, which was given to boost elective care to beyond pre-pandemic levels, delivered fewer inpatient and day case procedures than they did in the same period in 2019.

Suzanne reflects on this difficulty, describing how, despite the additional funding, one of the challenges in delivering elective care was the summer’s wave of Covid cases and the effect that the ongoing pandemic was having on workforces: “I think there’s a degree of nervousness from our teams about what the winter holds. They’ve seen a really difficult summer and they’re thinking that it will get worse again in the winter, and the resilience of staff – understandably – is lower. They’ve been working non-stop, and are under a lot of pressure, and that workload seems to be taking its toll.”

Ed goes on to ask Suzanne where she’d spend a fictional pot of money if presented with it: “I’d like to spend some money on really supporting our staff. For all of the reasons we’ve said in this conversation – resilience is lower, morale is lower, people are really struggling at the moment – I look at the facilities that people are working in, in most hospitals I think, and staff space to rest and recuperate is at a real premium.”

  1. The need for digital transformation

As ICSs begin to look to work more collaboratively across broader geography, the need for innovative and adaptable solutions is apparent. Suzanne states: “It’s really clear that we can’t carry on delivering services in the way we’ve always done so, we simply don’t have enough staff and need to train more, and we’re trying to make the best use of the staff we’ve got, so the most important thing for me that the NHS can do at the moment is increase significantly in digital capability.”

To hear more of the insight provided by Suzanne on how Royal Devon & Exeter is addressing the challenge of elective recovery, please visit https://inconversationwith.liaisongroup.com/ to watch our latest In Conversation With video.

Elective recovery plan on the way

MPs on the Health and Social Care Select Committee have questioned the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Sajid Javid, as part of its inquiry on clearing the health service’s backlog caused by the pandemic.

Mr Javid said that the NHS would, by the end of November, set out an elective recovery plan that would detail how it plans to meet its workforce requirements. He later added that the plan would also go into detail on workforce requirements.

He highlighted the current workforce levels in the NHS, noting that the Government had plans to recruit 50,000 more nurses by 2024 and adding that this was a target that the Government were currently meeting. He outlined additional spending that would help expand the NHS workforce, including the 1.25% health and social care levy on National Insurance that would raise £36bn over three years.

He said a lot of the workforce challenges being faced by the NHS were issues prior to the pandemic. He said better long-term planning of workforce needs was needed and that Health Education England had started work on a fifteen-year plan for long-term workforce need. He stated that this would be completed in spring 2022.

He said by the end of the year, “a couple” of documents would be published that would set out the approach to short-term workforce issues.

Liaison Workforce Managing Director, Judith Shaw, responded: “We look forward to seeing the NHS’s elective recovery plan. A clear plan will provide clarity and purpose for staff, and we will continue to support the NHS’s focus areas with the technology it needs to meet its aims. Our mii Tasks solution, for example, can facilitate the Patient Initiated Follow-Ups currently being piloted, where patients have more control over their care pathway.

To find out more about the solutions that Liaison Workforce provides for elective recovery, please speak to us about mii Tasks – our innovative digital task management tool which provides intelligent oversight of any task driven activity – at info@liaisongroup.com

Digital tools to reduce the waiting list backlog

Are you questioning how to meet NHSE requirements on elective recovery? Do you have complete visibility of where all patients are in the pathways?

Join the NHS discussion on how digital tools can work alongside current systems and be introduced in a matter of weeks to support PIFU, outpatients, waiting list backlog, and an ICS’s elective recovery plan.

Date: Thursday 16th December

Time: 11:00am

Click here to register


How does digitising the vaccine rollout improve speed and efficiency? 

In addition to the challenge of elective recovery, systems must also now provide significant resources to ensuring that vaccine boosters are available for every adult by the end of January 2022, as per the recent government announcement.  

To successfully deliver the Covid-19 vaccination programme, a huge coordination of clinical and administrative workers is essential, and the process of digitising Chesire CCG’s vaccination workforce begun in early 2020. Within the first two weeks of Cheshire CCG’s vaccination bank being live, over 1,000 clinical and administrative professionals and clinical volunteers were registered to ensure shifts were filled and the programme could be supported safely and effectively. 

And now with established vaccination support services across 18 locations (and counting) and 100+ collaborative system partners, Liaison Workforce can work with your trust or system to establish the most effective option to benefit your Covid-19 vaccination efforts, and deploy solutions at speed to benefit both the workforce and the local community whilst delivering the vaccine booster during this continued period of pressure and uncertainty.  

To read how Cheshire CCG digitised their vaccine workforce management, please click here. If you would like to discuss how we can bring this to your region, please get in touch at info@liaisongroup.com  

Workforce pressure and longstanding staff shortages seen as key challenges to NHS plans for elective care  

Pressures on the NHS workforce and longstanding staff shortages are amongst the key challenges highlighted by the National Audit Office to the health service in England’s plans around elective and cancer care.  

The NAO, which has published a new report into the NHS backlog, has said that recovering elective and cancer care performance to the standards the NHS has committed to represents a “huge and multi-faceted challenge”. It adds that alongside the ongoing pandemic, existing health inequalities and bed spaces in the health service, the NHS must also address longstanding staff shortages and the ongoing pressure on its workforce.  

In terms of its recommendations for government and the health service to improve its elective and cancer care performance, the report calls for: 

  • The Department for Health and Social Care, NHS England and Improvement and Health Education England to develop and implement detailed plans to address the shortages in the workforce, both over the next 12–36 months and beyond. 
  • To address pressure on the workforce; a focus on targets or milestones for recovery needs to be balanced nationally and locally with monitoring of the wellbeing of the NHS workforce.  
  • Consideration for additional capital funding to provide additional beds and operating theatre capacity beyond the levels that were planned before the Covid-19 pandemic. 

To read the full report, please visit the NAO website