Thank you for contacting me about the impact of coronavirus and related measures on people with arthritis.
I am sorry this reply has taken so long; I’m afraid that the pandemic and the lockdown with their various consequences have led to considerable delays in responses to enquiries.
While it has been important to postpone some NHS activities to protect individuals and enable resources to be used as efficiently as possible during the coronavirus outbreak, my colleagues in the Department of Health and Social Care, as well as NHS Staff, are determined to restart elective procedures as soon as it is safe to do so. NHS services could begin restarting from 28th April, including the most urgent. The exact pace of this restoration is determined by local circumstances, local need and demand, and the number of coronavirus cases being dealt with by hospitals.
I very much want to hear from constituents about their experiences of accessing these vital services. Please get in touch.
A&E appointments: I understand that a system whereby patients should call 111 before visiting A&E units is being piloted ahead of an anticipated nationwide rollout for December. This will reduce the risk of exposure to coronavirus by reducing the need to attend and wait at a hospital; moreover, it will also help to avoid patients needing to visit A&E at all by making use of the team at NHS 111 who can direct them to urgent treatment centres, GP surgeries, and mental health care, as well as A&E. Steps are already being taken to increase the number of NHS 111 call handlers and clinicians to support these changes. While people will not be prevented from seeking help at A&E without an appointment, they are likely to end up waiting for longer than those who have gone through 111. I know that my colleagues in the Department of Health and Social Care are working with colleagues in the NHS to ensure that these steps will help patients access the care they need, while reducing pressure on NHS emergency care. People with a life-threatening condition should still call 999. I will continue to follow this process closely.
The Government will now carefully consider the situation and the points raised by campaigners such as yourself, and in the meantime will continue to hold the NHS to account on its existing standards.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.
Craig Whittaker MP