Mr President, with your permission, I would like to make a statement on an ambitious new elective stimulus package…

… the NHS delivery plan to tackle the elective Covid-19 care backlog.

The NHS has responded with distinction during the country’s fight against the virus.

Caring for over 700,000 people with Covid-19 hospitalized in the UK…

…and to set up a vaccination program that helps this country to live with the virus…

…while doing a lot to maintain non-Covid care.

No one, no institution, has felt the burden of the pandemic more than the NHS.

There have been 17 million cases of Covid-19…

…and the NHS had to respond to the original variant…

…the Alpha wave…

…the Delta wave…

…and more recently of course the Omicron wave.

But even despite these pressures, we had one of the fastest vaccination programs in the world…

…and that includes one of the fastest callback programs in the world.

Unfortunately, due to the focus on urgent care…

…the NHS could not manage non-emergency care as much as anyone would have liked.

The British people of course understood this.

Despite these exceptional efforts, there is now a considerable backlog of elective Covid care.

1,600 people waited more than a year to receive care before the pandemic.

The latest data shows that figure is now over 300,000.

On top of that, the number of people awaiting elective care in England now stands at 6 million, up from 4.4 million before the pandemic.

Sadly, [Mr Speaker]this number will continue to rise before falling.

Many people understandably stayed away from the NHS at the height of the pandemic…

…and the most recent NHS estimate is that the number is around 10 million people.

But I want those people to know that the NHS is open…

…and as Health Secretary I want them to come forward for the care they need.

We don’t know how many will now show up – whether 30% or 80% will come back…

…because no country, no country has ever been confronted with such a situation.

So when developing this plan, the NHS had to make a number of assumptions…

Even if half of those people come forward, it’s going to place a huge demand on the NHS…

…and we do everything we can to ensure that the NHS is there for them when they do.

We have already announced that we are supporting the NHS with an additional £2billion of funding for elective recovery this year…

…and £8bn more over the next three years.

In addition, we are devoting nearly £6 billion more to capital investment, for new beds, equipment and technology.

And today, we’re announcing the next steps…

It shows how we will help the health and care system of this country recover from the disruption of this pandemic…

… but also how we are going to make such important reforms for the long term.

This will allow the NHS to carry out at least 9 million more tests, checks and procedures by 2025…

…and about 30% more elective activity every year in three years than before the pandemic.

This bold and radical vision was developed with expert input from clinical leaders and patient groups.

It won’t just reset the NHS to where it was before Covid…

…but building on what we have learned over the past two years…

…to transform elective services and ensure they are ready for the future.

Mr. Speaker, this plan focuses on four key areas.

The first is how are we going to increase capacity. In addition to huge levels of investment…

…we are doing everything in our power to make sure we have even more clinicians on the front line.

We now have more doctors and nurses working in the NHS than ever before…

…we have a record number of medical school students…

…and a record number of students applying for nursing training.

The plan defines what more we will do…

…including more health support workers…

…and the recruitment and deployment of NHS reservists. We will also make more use of the freelance sector, which was an important part of our Covid-19 contingency plans…

…so that we can help patients access the services they need due to this high demand.

Secondly, Mr President, as we look at the backlog, we will not just be trying to reduce the numbers…

… but also to prioritize by clinical need and reduce the longest waiting times.

Assuming half of the missing demand due to the pandemic returns within the next three years…

…the NHS expects the waiting list to shrink by March 2024.

Addressing long waits for the resumption of elective care is critical…

…and we will actively offer patients who wait longer a wider choice of care, to help reduce those numbers.

The plan sets an ambition to eliminate elective care wait times of more than a year by March 2025.

In this framework, no one will wait more than two years by July this year…

…and the NHS aims to eliminate waits longer than 18 months by April 2023…

…and more than 65 weeks by March 2024…

…which equates to 99% of patients waiting less than a year.

Mr President, I have heard the concerns that some people have rightly raised, including many honorable Members, about the impact of the pandemic on cancer care.

Friday…

…World Cancer Day…

…I have launched a call for evidence that will lead to a new 10-year cancer plan for England…

…a vision of how we can lead the world in cancer care…

…and this elective plan also emphasizes restoring cancer services.

The NHS has done a remarkable job of prioritizing cancer treatment throughout the pandemic…

…and we have consistently recorded record levels of referrals since March 2021.

But wait times have increased and fewer people have presented with cancer symptoms during the pandemic.

The plan shows how we will step up our campaigns to encourage more people to come forward…

…focusing on areas where referrals have been slowest to recover…

…like lung cancer and prostate cancer.

It also sets ambitious ambitions for how we will recover and improve performance in cancer care.

Bring the number of people waiting more than 62 days after urgent referral back to pre-pandemic levels by March 2023…

…and ensuring that 75% of patients referred urgently by their general practitioner for suspected cancer…

…are diagnosed or have cancer ruled out within 28 days by March 2024.

I am determined that we address the disparities that exist in this backlog – just as I have been determined to address disparities of all kinds across the country.

King’s Fund analysis shows that on average you are almost twice as likely to experience a wait of more than a year if you live in a deprived area.

And as part of our recovery work, we commission the NHS to analyze their waiting list data…

…depending on factors such as age, deprivation, ethnicity…

…to help develop detailed plans to address disparities.

Third, [Mr Speaker]this new chapter for the NHS offers an opportunity to radically rethink and rethink the way services are delivered…

…to reduce the backlog and provide more flexible and personalized patient care.

The pandemic has undoubtedly shown the importance of diagnosis.

But although more than 96% of people needing a diagnostic test received it in the six weeks before the pandemic…

… the latest data shows that number has dropped to 75%.

Our goal is to return to 95% by March 2025.

And a big part of that will be expanding the use of community diagnostic centers, which have already had a huge impact.

They are one-stop-shops for checks, scans and tests that will help people get a faster diagnosis and therefore the treatment they need sooner.

69 community diagnostic centers are already operational…

…and the plan shows our intention to have at least 100 in communities, in local communities and on main streets over the next three years.

We will also continue to expand the use of surgical centers, which will be dedicated to performing planned and elective surgeries.

They will allow us to do more surgeries in a single day than in typical outpatient settings…

…so we can speed up operations and ensure patients are more likely to go home the same day.

We have already piloted these hubs and will now roll them out across the country.

And then finally [Mr Speaker]we will improve patient information and support.

I know the anxiety that patients feel while waiting for care…

…especially if they feel like they’re not sure where they are in the queue…

…and I am determined to make sure that as we enter this next sentence, we will be open and transparent with patients.

We are going to launch a new online platform…

…called My Planned Care…

…which will go live this month…

…providing patients and their caregivers with personalized information before their planned surgery.

They will be able to see their provider’s wait times, to better understand their expected wait.

A third of cancellations during the day are due to people who are not clinically ready to receive treatment…

…and this new platform will be able to guide patients towards the most appropriate personalized support prior to their surgery.

This shows the approach we will take in the years to come…

…putting patients at the heart of their care…

…and give people, give them the support they need to make informed decisions.

We will also implement a payment system that incentivizes strong performance and provides good value for the public.

Mr President, just as we came together to fight this virus, now we must unite in a new national mission to fight what the virus has brought with it.

This will mean waiting lists will drop by March 2024…

…strong action to reduce long waiting times…

…and expanded goals for early diagnosis of cancer care.

This vital document shows how we will not only recover, but also reform…

…and make sure the NHS is there for all of us, no matter what comes our way.

I commend this statement to the House.