The past year has been challenging for even the most strong-willed members of society. From hospitality to retail, there has not been one sector that has been unaffected by the pandemic. Arguably, the public sector is one of the most highly impacted.  

While the roadmap for leaving lockdown unfolds and businesses begin to get back on their feet, the lasting effects of lockdown mean that recovery may take longer than expected. Here, we discuss the public sectors that we rely on day in, day out and their slower recovery plan to get back on track. 

Holding on for dear life  

The NHS and medical professionals across the UK have been put under extreme circumstances and have worked tirelessly to provide the best care throughout the pandemic. However, the increasing number of COVID-19 cases and hospital admissions has left the NHS with a growing backlog of patients needing routine hospital services.  

Compared to 2019, there was a reduction of 34% in patients being referred for consultant-led hospital care. While there was a rapid expansion of remote consultations and outpatient services to help patients complete treatment, many have still been left waiting for dates for crucial surgery.  

While doctors have implemented measures to reduce hospital admissions, many have still been left waiting for treatment and follow-up appointments. Macmillan estimates that, across the UK, 50% of those currently undergoing cancer treatment have experienced disruption with changes, cancellations, or delays.  

Around 90,000 people have experienced symptoms of their cancer getting worse, but haven’t told their doctor. Many reported that they don’t want to add to the current pressure on the NHS. It is imperative that access and confidence in the NHS is boosted for those currently having treatment and those yet to receive treatment. With the NHS’ recovery plan including £8.1 billion and funding boosts for maternity and mental health units this will certainly accelerate progress 

Drivers shown the red light  

Many drivers were grateful to hear that the government would issue an extension to MOT test certificates during the first lockdown, yet learner drivers have been neglected. As learners need to pass a theory and practical test to gain their licence, the pandemic has resulted in a backlog of thousands eager to get in the driving seat.  

With lockdown restrictions bringing driving lessons and practical tests to a halt, this has resulted in a backlog of more than 500,000 learners waiting to take their test. Some report at least a five-month wait for the next available slot. This doesn’t account for the many learner drivers who still need to take their theory test.  

It is estimated that at least 50,000 learners’ theory tests have expired since the UK first went into lockdown in March 2020. With the fee for the theory test currently £23, this equals a spend of £1.2m for learners to retake. With the government refusing to issue extensions on theory test certificates, learners will need to be patient for a little longer as they wait to hit the road again. 

Back to school 

Education was hit hard by the pandemic, as learning moved from the classroom to the dining room, affecting those of all ages. With many not having access to resources at home to complete work, the coronavirus has changed education dramatically.  

Whilst there is huge admiration for teachers because they adapted in a crisis, many have missed out on vital, usually regular teacher training to ensure a high standard of teaching is maintained. For many, no training took place to prepare for online teaching. A report by the Commons’ Public Accounts Committee found that the Department of Education “set no standards for in-school or remote learning during the rest of the school year”, meaning “children had very unequal experiences”. Ofsted was unable to carry out full inspections of schools and colleges, with virtual interim visits allowing for regular check ins, where they could ensure staff and students were being supported through the pandemic. Full inspections are set to resume in Autumn 2021. A Newcastle College Ofsted Interim Visit reported how teachers and learners worked together to overcome the challenges of remote learning for practical subjects, while confirming that learners were receiving good education. 

Patience will be a virtue as the road to recovery continues. Evidently, this will be hard work for everyone to adjust back to the ‘new normal’, but if we all unite and support each other we will come out on the other side stronger than ever.