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Nurses asked to work more flexibly and remotely to tackle waiting lists

Recovery plan for England promises massive rise in checks, tests and treatment – and more staff – to tackle elective care backlog made worse by pandemic
Picture shows first page of the NHS document setting out its recovery plan

Recovery plan for England promises massive rise in checks, tests and treatment – and more staff – to tackle elective care backlog made worse by pandemic

Nurses will be asked to work more flexibly and remotely as part of government plans to address the huge elective care backlog in England.

A much-anticipated NHS recovery plan promises a ‘massive expansion’ in checks, tests and treatment to deal with the vast backlog caused by the pandemic, on top of trying to increase workforce numbers.

‘Delivering elective recovery will require not just more new staff, but more opportunities for current staff to work flexibly and remotely and to

Recovery plan for England promises massive rise in checks, tests and treatment – and more staff – to tackle elective care backlog made worse by pandemic

Picture shows first page of the NHS document setting out its recovery plan
First page of the NHS document setting out its recovery plan

Nurses will be asked to work more flexibly and remotely as part of government plans to address the huge elective care backlog in England.

A much-anticipated NHS recovery plan promises a ‘massive expansion’ in checks, tests and treatment to deal with the vast backlog caused by the pandemic, on top of trying to increase workforce numbers.

‘Delivering elective recovery will require not just more new staff, but more opportunities for current staff to work flexibly and remotely and to develop new skills to progress in their careers,’ the plan states.

This could involve more nurses working across acute and community settings, it suggests. It also includes the creation of more community diagnostic centres, new surgical hubs and the roll-out of dedicated pre-operative care teams featuring specialist nurses.

Measures to tackle ever-increasing waiting lists include steps to recruit and retain more nurses

However, there are ongoing concerns about how services will be staffed given widespread shortages of nurses and other key healthcare professionals that have been exacerbated by COVID-19.

RCN general secretary Pat Cullen said: ‘Nursing staff will look at this plan and ask where the staff will credibly come from to deliver it in good time.’

Delays caused by the pandemic mean the number of people waiting for hospital treatment in England has hit an all-time high of six million – up from 4.4 million before the crisis – with 300,000 patient waiting for more than a year.

The recovery plan sets out a range of measures to tackle ever-increasing waiting lists, including steps to recruit and retain more nurses.

How the plan aims to boost the nursing workforce

  • International recruitment of nurses, especially those with experience of critical care and theatre
  • Make temporary bank shifts more attractive by paying promptly and making it easier to do extra shifts
  • Improve support for staff health and well-being

NHS organisations will be expected to establish dedicated care teams of specialist nurses, doctors and care coordinators – to be in place from April next year – to screen patients and support them in the run-up to operations.

Unison national nursing officer Stuart Tuckwood said this was a ‘sensible move that could cut needless cancellations and avoid prolonged distress for patients’. But he added: ‘There must be serious investment in the training and pay of nurses if ambitious plans like this are to be realised.’


Find out more

Delivery plan for tackling the COVID-19 backlog of elective care

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