More support needed for those waiting for operations say MPs

22 April 2021

On Tuesday 20 April, a debate on waiting times for elective surgery was held in the House of Commons. With hundreds of thousands of people with arthritis waiting for joint replacement surgery – many in agonising pain, this is impossible to ignore.

It’s time to take action

The debate was an important opportunity to get MPs talking about waiting times, what support can be provided to people with arthritis and to put pressure on the government to take action.

With restrictions easing, people with arthritis who are waiting for surgery, need timely communication and advice to manage their pain. We wrote to MPs ahead of the debate to raise key issues from our Impossible to Ignore campaign, which is calling on UK governments to set out plans to bring down surgery waiting times safely.

Les from Bridgewater has been on the waiting list for a joint replacement since July 2020 and she think she will be waiting many more months for her surgery.

She said: “I am in constant chronic pain from an arthritic left hip. I still work but it is getting harder all the time. If I were to receive a new hip I could, after recovery, look forward to taking up a fully active life again. As it is I understand why the delay, but it offers little consolation.”

Hip and knee replacements need to be priority

As part of our briefing, we urged for the backlog for elective care operations, including hip and knee replacements, to be a priority.

During the debate, Justin Madders MP, the Shadow Minister for Health and Social Care, mentioned Versus Arthritis and the importance of addressing the needs of people waiting for hip and knee replacements who “live in extreme distress and struggle to cope with pain which is impossible to ignore”.

Additionally, Munira Wilson MP cited Versus Arthritis and the need to address the pain, lack of mobility, and mental health challenges that people living with arthritis who wait for surgery experience.

Ed Argar MP, the Minister for Health and Care, spoke about the Government’s investment to help reduce waiting lists. This includes £1 billion in the Spending Review for elective care and £6.6 billion towards meeting the costs of the pandemic.

However, we believe it’s vital that investment is allocated towards hip and knee replacements and that local areas publish their recovery plans.

The picture across the UK

Recovery planning and increased waiting times as a result of the pandemic's impact on planned care are also high priority issues in Scotland and Wales, where national elections take place on 6 May.

We’ve also been invited to sit on a group set up by Welsh Government to look at support for people waiting longer for surgery. Last week, Northern Ireland’s Health Minister, Robin Swann, detailed his ambitions for the rebuilding health services and stressed the need for sustained investment to deliver the plans.

If you would like to listen to the full debate, you can tune in here.

We’re pushing for change

As lockdown restrictions ease, we’ve had our major victory for our Impossible to Ignore campaign. In March, the government announced that it had allocated an additional £6.6 billion for the NHS, and that they have committed to allocate some of this to tackling the backlog in elective surgery - including joint replacement surgery.

This is a huge achievement, and the power of your voices has made a real difference. However, there is a pressing need for clarity on how much of the funding will be allocated towards tackling waiting times for hip and knee replacements, and how that funding will be used.

We are currently working with NHS England and Improvement (NHSE/I) to shape the principles for recovering services for people with arthritis and MSK conditions through the "Best MSK Health Programme".

This will set out areas of best practice, including improving communication with patients and signposting to programmes that can help people manage their pain.

Get involved

To make sure that arthritis is kept on the agenda as UK Governments work through the pandemic, sign our petition now to demand action to bring down waiting times safely.

We’re here whenever you need us

If you have found yourself in a similar situation to Rob, and need advice or support, you can call our free helpline on 0800 5200 520