NHS staff have been praised for using innovation to help eliminate long waits for scans, checks, surgical procedures and other routine treatment.

The NHS Elective Recovery Plan, published earlier this year, set out how the health service would address the backlogs that have inevitably built up during Covid. This included the launch of an online platform which provided targeted information for patients waiting for elective surgeries and give them extra support and transparency.

There were more than 22,500 people who had been waiting two years or more at the start of the year, and a further 51,000 who would have breached two years by the end of July have also been treated.

A few months on since the plan was published this number has been reduced to 2,777, of whom 1,579 opted to defer treatment and 1,030 are very complex cases. NHS England has accredited this fall to the work and innovation of doctors, nurses, therapists, physios and other NHS staff.

NHS chief executive Amanda Pritchard said: “Thanks to the hard work and dedication of our staff the NHS has delivered the first mile-stone in our Elective Recovery Plan.

“It has only been possible because the NHS has continued to reform the way we deliver care, using innovative techniques and adopting pioneering technology like robot surgery, and through building new relationships and mutual aid arrangements across systems to offer patients the opportunity to be transferred elsewhere and get the care they need as quickly as possible.

“The next phase will focus on patients waiting longer than 18 months, building on the fantastic work already done, and while it is a significant challenge our remarkable staff have shown that when we are given the tools and resources we need, the NHS delivers for our patients.”