Thank you to everyone who has contacted me about measures to improve the quality of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) healthcare.
I sympathise profoundly with anyone who is affected by Crohn’s Disease or ulcerative colitis. More than 500,000 people across the UK are understood to be living with IBD. It is imperative that the NHS and wider services recognise and understand their healthcare needs.
In your letter, you raise awareness of Crohn’s and Colitis UK’s (CCUK) recent report, ‘The Hidden Cost and a Vision for Change’. CCUK highlight system-wide issues that need addressing to ensure that health services deliver consistent, high-quality, and personalised care for people with IBD.
I was particularly disappointed to learn from the report that more than a quarter of people living with IBD are waiting over a year for a diagnosis. It is important that healthcare professionals are supported to recognise the symptoms of IBD; the faster a successful diagnosis is made the sooner individuals can receive treatment and support to manage their condition.
Delays in diagnosis have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has also widened the cracks in the quality of IBD care. Patients are facing even longer waits for elective care, surgery, investigations and personalised care and support to plan their daily lives. Indeed, waiting lists have risen to their highest level on record, with 4.7 million patients waiting for treatment.
I am concerned that years of Government underfunding and cutbacks has meant our NHS entered this pandemic exposed. It is now crucial that Ministers outline a fully resourced plan to help the NHS meet the growing burden of unmet clinical need.
The Government recently confirmed that NHS England is working closely with frontline clinical experts and leading charities, including CCUK, to develop evidence-based improvement tools to address variations in services.
Alongside greater recognition and support for people living with IBD, I believe the Government must bring forward an urgent NHS rescue plan to prioritise patient care in the recovery from the pandemic. Ministers should set out their plan to bring down waiting lists and ensure that staff have the modern equipment to deliver the care, surgery and support patients deserve.