NHS England has injected $160m into ‘elective accelerator’ sites with the aim of reducing waiting lists by introducing new and ‘innovative’ ways of working.

The new initiative comes amid early reports showing that the NHS is recovering at a faster rate following the coronavirus pandemic’s second wave, compared to the first wave.

According to the NHS, indicators suggest that operations and other elective activity were at four-fifths of pre-pandemic levels in April, ahead of the 70% threshold outlined in official guidance.

NHS England is now planning to trial new ways of working in a dozen areas and five specialist children’s hospitals in a bid to accelerate this recovery.

These ‘elective accelerators’ will receive part of the $160m funding as well as additional support to implement and evaluate new ways of working which aim to boost the number of elective operations that can be delivered.

As a result of the funding, ‘tens of thousands’ of patients will be able to benefit from new initiatives over the next three months, which include a high-volume cataract service, one stop testing facilities, improved access to specialist advice for GPs and pop-up clinics.

The NHS is also trialling virtual wards and home assessments, 3D eye scanners, at-home antibiotic kits, ‘pre-hab’ for patients who are about to have surgery, AI in GP surgeries and ‘Super Saturday’ clinics which will bring together multi-disciplinary teams to offer more specialist appointments.

“With Covid cases in hospitals now significantly reducing thanks to the extraordinary success of the NHS vaccination programme, our focus is now on rapidly recovering routine services. Early figures show local teams are already well ahead of schedule, but we want to go further, faster which is why we are investing £160 million to find new ways to tackle waiting lists,” said Amanda Pritchard, chief operating officer of the NHS.

“The additional support announced today will help us create a blueprint for continuing that progress over summer and beyond, in a way that doesn’t heap extra pressure on staff, so that as many people as possible benefit from the world-class care the NHS provides,” she added.