Thank you for contacting me about arthritis. I know this can be a very painful and debilitating condition. I recognise that living with a long-term condition, such as arthritis, has a significant impact upon a person’s wellbeing.
I can assure you that reducing waiting times for operations required by people with arthritis - including hip and knee replacement surgery - is an urgent priority for the Government and for me.
To date, £5.4 billion of funding has been committed to begin reducing the backlog of operations. In addition to this, the number of surgical hubs will be increased to deliver more hip and knee replacements in a COVID-secure environment.
While this investment is welcome, it is very clear to me that more money alone cannot fix all of the NHS’s problems. To fully solve the backlogs, we must have more doctors, nurses and many other health care professionals, including specialist consultants. How are they to be found? The biggest challenge facing the NHS, be it in cities, rural or coastal areas is the chronic workforce shortage in the system.
A new and updated workforce strategy is desperately needed alongside additional funding in order to create a system that doesn’t keep having to be topped up every winter due to shortages. The NHS workforce is critical to everything that it does and, therefore, has to be made more sustainable for the longer term. Extra hospital beds are useless if you haven’t got the staff to look after the patients.
I take a very close personal interest in health matters and chair the All Party Parliamentary Group on Rural Health and Social Care, and I can assure you that I am working hard to ensure both the Government via its national NHS reforms and local management are doing everything possible to recruit staff as effectively as possible and to get waiting lists down.
NHS England and Improvement has published a plan for the recovery of elective care in England, and launched the My Planned Care platform to ensure that people waiting for treatment have access to information and support in the meantime.
It is particularly important that local NHS bodies clearly communicate with people with arthritis on waiting lists for surgery about when they can expect to be treated, and signpost to information and support available from charities like Versus Arthritis.
To this end, I am aware that my colleague Ed Argar MP (Minister for Health) recently met with Versus Arthritis to discuss their ideas around the recovery of elective treatment and to better understand the issues faced by people with arthritis on waiting lists.
Thank you also to those constituents who invited me to attend the Versus Arthritis reception in Parliament on the 13th of July. I was unable to attend the event, but I would be interested in receiving data on from Versus Arthritis relevant to Teignbridge.