Our response: Elective recovery plan announced for England

10 February 2022

The pandemic has led to record numbers of people waiting for NHS treatment, especially for planned care like joint replacement operations.

Versus Arthritis has been calling on UK governments to set out their plans to bring down joint replacement waiting times and provide support to those waiting for treatment.

Earlier this week, the Government and NHS launched a plan to tackle the elective care backlog in England. This marks an important step in tackling spiralling waiting times and providing support to people with arthritis struggling in pain.

However, we now need to push for more detail on how it will be delivered in practice, to make sure those waiting for surgery see improvements as soon as possible and get access to the vital treatment and support their urgently need.

Learn more about all of the national plans in place to tackle the surgery backlog:

What is the elective recovery plan?

The elective recovery plan aims to reduce the elective surgery backlog caused by the pandemic and sets out how people waiting for surgery will be supported in England.

The plan promises to deliver more operations through surgical hubs and places greater emphasis on improving communication and support to people waiting for planned surgery.

It's significant for people with arthritis as thousands are in agonising pain waiting for hip and knee replacements.

Waiting times for surgery have spiralled to record levels as a result the pandemic. Over 700,000 people are waiting for treatment in Trauma and Orthopaedics as of November 2021.

What the elective recovery plan means for people with arthritis?

We know that many people living with arthritis are waiting in pain for surgery. Over the past few years, many of you have shared your experiences with us and supported each other.

Formerly a care worker, Chris, 71, was diagnosed with arthritis in his right hip in 2018. In 2019, he went to the GP about worsening pain and was told he would need a hip replacement.

His operation was due to take place in March 2020 but was cancelled because of the pandemic. It was subsequently delayed by health issues that were directly caused by Chris’ inability to exercise due to the constant pain of arthritis.

He was put back on the waiting list at the end of February 2021 and is still waiting today.

Chris said:

They are good words from the plan, but we need to know how they are going to put the words into practice. There is already a shortage of NHS staff, and the Government and NHS will need to expand operating facilities and recruit more surgeons.

There is also an acute shortage of care workers, either in care homes or in care at home. Those living alone rely on the care and will suffer without that vital help.

Where is the money going to come from and can we be assured that words turn rapidly into action?

What’s next?

The publication of the elective recovery plan for England means we now have government plans in place across the UK.

We will push forward our campaign to ensure that government commitments lead to change in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Tracey Loftis, Head of Policy & Public Affairs at Versus Arthritis, said:

Long waits for treatment are having a big impact on the physical and mental health of people with arthritis. This recovery plan is urgently needed and marks an important step forward in tackling long waiting times.

Whilst we welcome efforts to expand surgical capacity, and to give people more information, it will be crucial that people know when they will start to see the benefits."

Together we've achieved so much

Through our Impossible to Ignore campaign, we’ve been calling on all UK Governments to bring waiting times down and for more information and support for people waiting in agony for surgery.

Tens of thousands of us have demanded change – from delivering a petition to UK parliaments to writing to our MPs and devolved politicians.

Securing this plan is a huge step for our campaign and demonstrates that our voices are being heard.

Thank you to everyone who has campaigned with us for change, your action has and is making a real difference.

… but there is still more for us to do

Your actions, and your emails, have a real impact when it comes to keeping the issues faced by people with arthritis in the political consciousness.

But people with arthritis facing an agonising wait for surgery they need to see progress at pace.

As waiting times continue to rise across the UK, we’ll be demanding more for people living with arthritis.

Together, we will be campaigning to make sure that governments deliver on their commitments and people with arthritis receive the treatment and support they urgently need.

Get involved

Join our campaign network to receive regular updates and to make sure that arthritis is kept on the agenda as UK Governments work through the pandemic. 

We’re here whenever you need us.