Thank you to those who have contacted me about the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on people suffering with arthritis. I commend Versus Arthritis for their work to support people suffering with arthritis and to raise awareness of the condition.

I am grateful to everyone who has worked so hard to stay at home throughout the pandemic. These efforts have undoubtedly saved lives and enabled our NHS to provide urgent treatment like cancer and emergency care. However, I understand that 4.75 million people in England are now waiting for care, with around 330,000 of those having been waiting more than a year, in addition to people who have not contacted their GP when, in ordinary times, they would have reached out for help. I agree that we must act urgently to tackle this problem.

The Government is already working with the NHS to accelerate service recovery: in March 2021, an additional £7 billion of funding was announced for healthcare services, including £1 billion to target backlogs in elective services. As part of the commitment to recovery of non-urgent services and to address elective backlogs, £325 million has been provided for new investment in diagnostics equipment to improve clinical outcomes.

I know that staff throughout the NHS are working extremely hard to tackle the backlog. I thank all who work within the Island Healthcare teams, not only the doctors and nurses, but also those who play an important role behind the scenes.