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Plans to tackle waiting lists and NHS backlogs in England

This week, we’ve heard updates from the Government in England on several aspects of health and social care.

Plans to tackle waiting lists

We know the extended waiting lists caused by the pandemic are a serious issue for people with MS. And those who suspect they may have MS and are waiting for a diagnosis. So, we’re pleased to see plans to tackle NHS waiting lists in England. Including the extra investment of £8 billion over the next three years announced previously.

We welcome plans for community diagnostic hubs. These will allow people with lots of conditions to access tests such as MRIs more quickly in their community.

There needs to be a plan to recruit and train more NHS staff, and support the workforce. This’ll help to significantly reduce waiting times and improve care and treatment for people living with MS, and other conditions. 

There’s a focus on a move towards virtual services. This won’t work for everyone. And we think how care is delivered should be based on what works best for the person receiving it. Using virtual services isn’t and shouldn’t be an option for everyone, and there is a risk of widening inequalities.

We know lots of people with MS are having trouble getting in touch with their neurology team or MS nurse. Please get in touch with us at [email protected] if you’d like to share your experiences.

Integration of health and care services in England

We know health and care for people with MS often involves different services in the complex health and care system. And we hear from people who are frustrated at how difficult it seems for these services to coordinate with each other.

Yesterday, a white paper was released with more details on plans to make the NHS and social care systems more connected. A white paper is a policy document, setting out the government’s proposals for future legislation. We were pleased to see the paper focusing on people's needs. 

The paper sets out measures also included in the Health and Care Bill. This talks about helping the NHS and social care system to work together, changes to social care, and oversight of quality and safety of care. NHS and local councils will be supported and encouraged to work together more, and pool their budgets and resources. 

There’s also an aim for everyone to have a digital record of their care accessible by health and social care services by 2024. This could mean you don’t have to repeat your story and past experiences to multiple different professionals. So your care can be better coordinated around you.

Our reaction

Phillip Anderson, our Head of Policy, says:

"Efforts to tackle waiting lists and to better join up different services are a useful recognition of key issues the MS Society and people with MS have been raising for a long time.

While there is much to welcome across both initiatives, they’re likely to fall short unless the Government puts in place the fundamental building blocks for a good health and care system.

First, we need a much more ambitious plan to recruit the staff the entire system is missing desperately. We also need the Government to step up and truly transform social care, rather than the current compromise solution that will leave many still struggling with poor or no care and very high costs."

What we’re doing

We’ll continue to highlight the need for a comprehensive workforce plan and a personalised approach to virtual services. This’ll go directly to Ministers and officials within Government, as well as in the media and our campaigning work. We’ll keep pushing for better care and support across the whole of the UK.

We’re continuing to work with other organisations, including the Care and Support Alliance, to engage with these proposed changes. And to make sure they consider the needs of people with MS. We’ve been speaking to MPs and peers about how this’ll affect people with MS and other conditions. And we’ll keep you updated on ways to get involved.