Clearing the NHS backlog
The Health and Social Care Committee is a cross-party group of MPs tasked with scrutinising the government’s health and social care policy and is influential in pressing the government to take action on their recommendations. It's therefore an important group for campaigning organisations like us to work with to make sure the voices and concerns of people living with and at risk of conditions such as diabetes are heard.
We've submitted evidence to the Committee, which highlighted the need to ensure that diabetes care was a top priority for clearing the NHS backlog. We also met with the chair of the Committee, Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP, to outline how seriously diabetes care had been impacted by the pandemic and what action needed to be taken.
Our Chief Executive, Chris Askew OBE, said:
“Diabetes is serious, and the fact many people living with the condition have still not been seen by their healthcare teams during the pandemic is a major concern. Access to vital checks have dropped significantly compared with pre-pandemic levels, and additionally thousands of diagnoses of type 2 diabetes have been delayed or missed. Often those living in the most deprived areas have seen their routine care hit the hardest.
“It is clear the pandemic has placed an immense strain on the NHS, and we fully support the Health and Social Care Select Committee’s recommendation for a national health and care recovery plan to be drawn up by April. We’re calling for the recovery of diabetes care to be a clear part of this plan, and we urge Government to ensure that NHS services have the investment needed to make it a reality.”
Our response focused on the recommendations outlined in our Diabetes is Serious campaign, based on our survey work with people living with diabetes. The results of our survey highlighted that 1 in 3 people living with diabetes had not had contact with their diabetes healthcare team throughout the pandemic.
With further delays expected for routine appointments during the Covid-19 Omicron wave, we're deeply concerned that people living with diabetes are not getting the care they need. This will potentially have a long term devastating impact on them and the NHS in the future. Routine diabetes checks help people to work with their healthcare team to manage their condition and reduce the risk of serious diabetes complications.
Key priorities from the Committee's report
The Committee have identified a number of key priorities for tackling the NHS backlog and helping the NHS to recover from the effects of the pandemic. We've picked out those which are most important to people living with diabetes:
- Overall pressure to reduce the care backlog: The overall focus of the report is on ensuring that the wider backlog of care is underpinned by appropriate funding, workforce, and use of innovation and tools. We welcome the Committee’s call for the government to publish a national health and care recovery plan, and we're calling for diabetes care to be a clear part of this.
- New diagnostic hubs: The report recommends that more details for the government’s planned 100 new community diagnostic hubs be published – we're calling for these to play a part in clearing the backlog of diabetes diagnoses.
- Technology: The report makes a series of recommendations about how technology can help the NHS recover effectively from the pandemic, including around the use of digital tools in primary care and of remote consultations in general practice. We're championing the role of diabetes technology in supporting self-management, and in facilitating remote consultations. We're calling for patient choice to be a key part of decisions about whether you see your healthcare team in person or remotely, such as online or by phone.
- Reducing inequalities: The report highlights the importance of reducing inequalities to the recovery of the NHS from the pandemic and to clearing the backlog. We know that inequality plays a role in many people’s development of type 2 diabetes and that often those living in the most deprived areas have seen their routine care hit the hardest. We call for all measures tackling the backlog to address inequalities.
- Mental Health: The report focusses on the large backlog of mental health care. We know that many people living with diabetes have experienced poor mental health during the pandemic and we're campaigning for long-term health conditions, including diabetes, to be included in any plans for recovery of mental health.
What happens next?
The Select Committee shining a spotlight on the backlog of care gives us an opportunity to respond and amplify the voices of people living with diabetes. We'll follow up with the Committee and other MPs to share our response to this report, and it provides a good basis for our conversations with government as they consider and write their response. Our chief executive Chris Askew OBE will be meeting with Health Minister Maria Caulfield later this month, and this report will help us to emphasise the need to take action to reduce harm for people living with diabetes.
Following our campaigning work, we're seeing diabetes move up the political agenda. For example, restoring diabetes care was included in the recently published guidance for the NHS planning priorities for 2022-23.
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