According to the BOA position statement of 19th February 2022, elective trauma and orthopaedic (T&O) surgery once again topped the waiting list data from NHS England. This data reflects the situation as of 31st December 2021 for a number of surgeries including adults awaiting hip and knee arthroplasty, reveal the sheer scale of the COVID back-log for elective surgery.1
The total T&O waiting list now exceeds 700,000, the largest for a decade. More than 60,000 of those patients have been waiting over a year for their surgery. By comparison, 436 patients had to wait more than 52 weeks for their surgery in January 2020.
Professor John Skinner, President of the BOA said: “These figures reinforce the need to move quickly to implement the recovery plan and prioritise patients waiting for their much needed surgery. Prolonged waiting has a significant impact on patient’s mental and physical health. Patients in severe pain lose mobility and independence, their health deteriorates, they are unable to work, require more GP support and increasingly rely on stronger and stronger pain killers.” 1
The role of digital technology in freeing up capacity
“Many aspects of service delivery in the NHS contribute to capacity, including beds, appointments and how clinician time is apportioned. Digital technology and data systems provide an opportunity to release capacity in these areas by allowing services to be delivered in new ways that more efficiently meet the needs of both patients and staff.”2
Digital remote care
Digital remote care enables supervising clinicians to manage appropriate patients from a home setting. Receiving care in their own home following surgery can be more convenient for patients, their family and carers, accelerate recovery, improve experience, and increase the number of people treated. It can also free up clinical time and reduce bed occupancy for those people whose needs cannot be met virtually.
Digital technology that reduces the time staff spend on paperwork can help clear backlogs of data uploads and free up more time for patient care. Robotic Process Automation, has been used to automate patient registration, admission and discharge by enabling effective data upload and transfer to Electronic Patient Records, saving time on administrative work.
It is the recovery plan’s ambition that digital technologies that improve access and flexibility for patients, and frees up capacity should be scaled across the NHS. This will allow those in clinical roles to spend as much time as possible caring for patients, to provide a better experience and, ultimately, improve health outcomes.