Column: NHS treatment backlog

The following appeared as my column in the Barnsley Chronicle on 2nd October:

Ahead of the winter months, it’s vital that our NHS is given the resources and support it needs to survive a 2nd spike in COVID-19 infections and additional pressures brought on by colder weather.

Over the last few months, we’ve seen spiralling waitlists, the longest since records began, and heard stories from friends and neighbours about cancelled or postponed medical treatments and doctor’s appointments.

Already we have health inequalities in this country. Life expectancy in Barnsley is five years lower than in Kensington and Chelsea. I’m worried this gap will increase if no action is taken.

Last week in Parliament, I asked the Government to outline its cancer recovery plan, to deal with the backlog in cancer screening tests and get cancer treatments and services up and running again following the lockdown.

I’ve been contacted by concerned constituents who have symptoms for serious illnesses but who’ve been unable to get a diagnosis. Back in March, bowel, breast, and cervical screen programmes were put on hold. Many have only recently started up again.

It is vital that the Government gets a hold of this crisis now. We cannot keep delaying treatments and operations.

NHS trusts need to be given support to get back on their feet and up to capacity.

Community care networks and technological solutions must be promoted, and help must be given by this Government to make sure that doctors, nurses, and frontline workers have the tools they need to keep our community healthy.

The simple fact remains, however, that without a fully functioning test and trace system we cannot get our NHS back on track.

I challenged the Prime Minister on his Government’s mismanagement of COVID-19 testing. His reply was shocking. He refused to accept responsibility for the failure of the testing system. I shared with him the example of a mum from our community who had been denied an accessible test for her son. She was asked to travel over 300 miles away to Inverness for a test.

Patients should get the care they need the first time around.

From a COVID-19 test to a cancer screening appointment, the quicker someone is seen the more likely they are to recover. This, ultimately, protects our community and helps everyone stay healthy.

Doctors, nurses, and staff are working day and night in Barnsley hospital and across our community to keep people well. We must do right by them and follow up to date COVID-19 guidance, to stop the spread of the virus and protect vulnerable people.

I don’t believe Barnsley people should pay for the hidden costs of this pandemic. One in 50 NHS patients have now been waiting a year or more for planned surgery treatments due to COVID-19 delays. It’s people from places like ours who can’t afford private healthcare whose health will suffer if the backlog isn’t dealt with and our NHS isn’t given the support it needs.

The Government need to wake up to the oncoming crisis and act now.

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  • Stephanie Peacock
    published this page in Coronavirus 2020-10-02 10:02:41 +0100