Looking to the future of NHS recovery

Published: 28/05/2021

In response to the publication of the Royal College of Surgeons report ‘A New Deal for Surgery’, Professor Ravi Mahajan, President of the Royal College of Anaesthetists said:

“We welcome the publication of the Royal College of Surgeons’ report A New Deal for Surgery. While finding solutions to reduce the backlog must remain a priority for the NHS, this needs to be delivered in ways which retain high levels of patient safety and guarantees training and development opportunities and the welfare and morale of staff are not overlooked.

“Anaesthetists, alongside surgeons and other healthcare workers have been crucial to keeping the NHS running during the pandemic and are the same people responsible for tackling the immense surgical backlog. Therefore, we wholeheartedly support the call for long-term investment to put the NHS on a sustainable footing, not only to recover from the recent pandemic, but to make it more resilient in the face of future challenges and complex population health needs.

“Innovative ideas such as surgical hubs, would be a welcome addition in the fight to reduce the backlog, but they, just on their own, are not enough. We are calling on Government to deliver an NHS that not only looks at the present but prepares for the future. The NHS must tackle the long-standing issues of staff welfare and morale, and staffing gaps brought on through low retention rates and a training programme that is currently not fit-for-purpose.

“We urge the Government to commit to address head on the issue of workforce planning. The College will shortly be releasing the findings of our Anaesthesia – fit for the future campaign, which will provide evidence needed to protect our anaesthetic capacity for the next 20 years.

“However, we must not forget that our core focus, as always, must be the patients. Behind every statistic is a person getting sicker or suffering pain as they wait months, if not years, to receive treatment. Developing the model of care, to encourage patients to see waiting lists as a time to prepare for surgery, may not only lead to a lower risk of complications but a quicker recovery. This is good for the patient and takes some pressure off a stretched NHS.

“The report has defined the challenges that the health service will face as we emerge from the pandemic. The recommendations within the report signpost our route to recovery. By anaesthetists, surgeons and all others in the National Health Service working together, we will not only be able to recover from the pandemic but also deliver an NHS truly fit for the future.”