Reducing waiting lists and waiting times, exacerbated of course by the impact of the pandemic, is a key priority for this Government. Southampton, like the rest of the country, will benefit from the detailed actions set out in the elective recovery plan published by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State a few months ago. In addition, as part of Solent Acute Alliance hospital upgrade programme, University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust has received £12.1 million to increase capacity at Southampton General Hospital.
The hospital trust in Southampton, which is an excellent provider, is desperate to get back to elective surgery and non-life-threatening procedures, but finds that it cannot because it cannot integrate covid treatment into general ward activities, and has a continuing high level of staff sickness, which means that procedures are often undertaken very inefficiently in terms of resources. What assistance can the Minister provide for the trust to enable it to get on the front foot as regards elective procedures and non-life-threatening treatments in the near future?
The hon. Gentleman rightly pays tribute to the staff at his hospital trust, and I join him in doing so. The number of those in his area waiting for an elective procedure or routine operation has reduced slightly. There is more to do, but the trust is making inroads, as he says, and I know that it wants to do more. As we set out in the elective recovery plan, some innovations, such as surgical hubs, allow a greater separation between covid areas, or areas where covid may be present, and elective activity is a key part of that. If it is helpful, I am always happy to meet him to discuss the specifics of his local hospital.