I commend Versus Arthritis for their work to support people suffering with arthritis and to raise awareness of the condition.
I am so grateful to everyone who has worked so hard to stay at home throughout the pandemic: your efforts have undoubtedly saved lives, and enabled our NHS to provide urgent treatment like cancer and emergency care. However, I understand that 4.7 million people in England are now waiting for care, with around 380,000 of those having been waiting more than a year, in addition to people who have not contacted their GP when, in ordinary times, they would have reached out for help. I agree that we must act urgently to tackle this problem.
As a result, I welcome that the Government is already working with the NHS to accelerate service recovery: in March 2021, an additional £7 billion of funding was announced for healthcare services, including £1 billion to target backlogs in elective services. As part of the commitment to recovery of non-urgent services and to address elective backlogs, £325 million has been provided for new investment in diagnostics equipment to improve clinical outcomes.
I know that staff throughout the NHS are working extremely hard to tackle the backlog: in January and February 2021 NHS staff completed almost 2 million operations and other elective care while also providing treatment to 140,000 COVID-19 patients in England. However, I agree that there is more work to be done in this area over the coming months