Our response: MPs report on delivering health services during the pandemic

01 October 2020
Rob sat at the table in his house.

We know that many of you have been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic with appointments, treatments and joint replacement surgery being delayed. The current situation is that thousands of people are left waiting in pain with no clear idea of when things will return to normal.

Therefore, we welcome today’s report from Parliament’s Health & Social Care Committee. This report emphasises the unprecedented challenge the pandemic has placed on services, including elective surgery in England. Engaging with the inquiry has been one of the ways in which we've worked to get the needs of people with arthritis on the agenda during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The impact of waiting for a joint replacement

Evidence given to the committee by our campaigner, Rob Martinez, made clear the devastating impact of cancelled joint replacement surgery, and the importance of regular communication about when treatment might take place.

Responding to the Committee’s report, Rob Martinez said:

“Having my surgery cancelled and then no updates from my hospital during the pandemic was incredibly tough, and on the darkest days I felt like giving up, but it’s important to try and stay positive. Physically on a day to day basis it's really changed my life completely. I’m in constant pain. My sleeping is impacted by it, I don't have a full night's sleep anymore. It's horrible, and my condition has deteriorated. No medication has helped me.

“I now have an operation scheduled in October, which has been a massive relief. But now with the second wave I fear my operation will be cancelled again. And this is just the first operation! I’m going to need the other knee replaced after this, and I’ll have to go through this all over again. It just doesn’t bear thinking about.

“I’m incredibly grateful for the Committee’s report and the support of Versus Arthritis in helping shine a light on what people like me are having to endure. Sometimes it’s felt like we’ve been ignored, and I hope the NHS takes on board these recommendations, especially in providing better communication and support for when we will get surgery.”

Better communication with patients

It’s vital that people on waiting lists have clear communication and support while they wait. This should include access to shared decision-making services and support around keeping fit in preparation for surgery.

We support the Committee’s recommendation that NHS England and Improvement (NHSE-I) should review, as a matter of priority, the directions given to NHS Trusts about communicating with patients about on progress of their treatment and important medical guidance in any second wave of COVID-19.

Restoring elective surgery must be a greater priority for the NHS

Data for July 2020 showed that over half a million (513,133) people in England were waiting for Trauma & Orthopaedic (including joint replacement) surgery, with over 18,000 waiting over a year.

Delaying joint replacement can have a negative impact on people’s physical and mental health. Read Richard and Terri’s story.

We strongly welcome the Committee’s recommendation that NHSE-I should update, by the end of the month:

  • the steps being taken to address the impact of the pandemic on waiting times and the backlog of treatment, including elective surgery, and
  • the role that the independent sector can play in reducing waiting times.

It’s also positive that the Committee has recommended NHSE-I should be more actively promoting that the NHS is open for non-COVID-19 treatment.

Responding to the Health and Social Care Committee’s report Liam O’Toole, CEO of Versus Arthritis, said:

“People with arthritis’ lives have been severely disrupted by the steps taken to manage COVID-19. They are still bearing the brunt of disruptions to appointments and surgery that it has caused, while having to endure agonising pain for even longer.

“Versus Arthritis supports the report’s recommendations that patients receive better communication from their local NHS Trusts about what they can expect in the months ahead.

With a second COVID wave expected it’s critical that NHS England and NHS Improvement spell out the steps that are being taken to deal with the impact of the pandemic on waiting times and treatment backlogs.”

Impossible to Ignore

Our Impossible to Ignore campaign is calling for:

  • UK governments to address the needs of people with arthritis as they plan to restart services
  • a commitment to involve people with arthritis in shaping treatment and services and
  • local planning to make sure that people with arthritis get the communication, advice and support they need to manage their pain.

We call on the Department of Health and Social Care in England and NHSE-I to act with urgency to respond to and address the report’s recommendations.

Get involved

Please add your voice to our Impossible to Ignore petition and share the petition with friends and family on Facebook or Twitter.

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