NHS carried out 1MILLION fewer emergency procedures last year because of Covid

More than a million emergency hospital admissions were ‘lost’ to the coronavirus pandemic, according to official data. 

There were 5.45million emergency procedures carried out across all NHS England services in the 12 months to March, down 16 per cent on the 6.5m the previous year. 

The NHS Digital statistics, published today, include admissions for accident and emergency, mental health, maternity and even dental patients.   

Figures also show there were 3.2m fewer elective surgeries in the same period, with 5.6m coming in for care during the pandemic compared to 8.8m pre-Covid.

Patients were left struggling to access care through repeated lockdowns as the health service turned its attention to Covid.

Many were also reluctant to come forward for fear of being a burden on the NHS or catching the virus.    

There is mounting pressure on the NHS to start chopping down record waiting lists that have amassed during the pandemic, now that Covid vaccines have largely broken the link between infections and severe illness. 

Health Secretary Sajid Javid warned today that the UK faces ‘two backlogs’ — the waiting list for routine operations and ‘a social backlog in mental health and public health’. 

He said: ‘Passing the peak of the pandemic has been a bit like a receding tide, revealing the underlying health of our nation.’ 

There were 5.45million emergency procedures carried out across all NHS England services in the 12 months to March, down 16 per cent on the 6.5m the previous year

The number of patients waiting for routine hospital treatment hit 5.6million in July, the highest figure since records began in 2007. And health chiefs have warned the backlog is going to get much worse before it gets better, with projections that it could soar up to 13million by the end of the year if no action is taken

Patients forced to wait more than 18 weeks for routine surgery – the maximum time someone should wait under the NHS’s own rules – reached 1.7million in July, the highest level in four months

Some 293,000 people had been waiting more than a year for treatment on the NHS by July this year, figures showed. This was down slightly on last month when there were 304,803 people on the list, but still almost three times the same levels last year. The list has surged after the pandemic forced hospitals to turn over whole wards to fighting the virus

An NHS spokesperson said: ‘The NHS provided emergency treatment for well over five million people last year, at the same time as caring for 450,000 patients with Covid-19, rolling out a world-leading vaccination programme and continuing routine care as far as possible, including performing millions of diagnostic tests and treating thousands of patients with cancer.

‘Some people were reluctant to come forward for help during the pandemic but the NHS message remains clear – anyone who needs care should come forward – contact NHS 111 Online so that staff can help you find the best option for your care, or call 999 in an emergency.’ 

New estimates today show that Covid vaccinations have directly averted about 230,800 hospital admissions in England.

Some 178,900 admissions have been prevented among those aged 65 years and over, with a further 51,900 among people aged 45 to 64.

The estimates, which have been calculated by Public Health England and Cambridge University, cover the period up to September 5.

A total of 89 per cent of all people aged 16 and over in England have now received one dose of vaccine, while 81 per cent are fully vaccinated. 

Lack of face-to-face GP appointments ’caused stillbirths to spike’ during pandemic

A lack of in-person GP appointments during the pandemic may have led to a surge in stillbirths, a damning report has warned.

The Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch said stillbirths were up 88 per cent last year compared to pre-Covid levels.

Its investigation into 37 cases found the move to remote appointments ‘impeded’ medics’ ability to carry out vital checks. 

It comes after a senior coroner last week ruled that a lack of face-to-face GP appointments contributed to the deaths of five people. 

A third fewer people are seeing their GP in-person now compared to before the pandemic and tens of millions of appointments were ‘lost’ during the Covid crisis.

GPs were urged to conduct all consultations remotely and strongly encouraged not to invite patients for an in-person appointment unless they deemed it an emergency.

But trusts have continued to incentivise the practice more than a year after the original lockdown, with doctors being offered bonuses to keep attendances low.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid fired a warning shot at GPs in the Commons earlier this week, telling them: ‘GPs should be offering face-to-face access.’

The figures add to growing pressure for the Government to turn its attention to other health conditions, feared to have got worse during the pandemic.

Mr Javid today promised to do just that, admitting that the Covid crisis had revealed ‘some fractures’ in the UK’s health and social care system.

Speaking at a community centre in Blackpool, the Health Secretary promised to ‘level up’ public health.

He said: ‘I couldn’t simply be the ‘Minister for Covid’, because we had to turn and face all the other challenges too.

‘Challenges like the backlog. More than five and a half million people are on the waiting list for elective treatment – that is a record high. 

‘But the backlog in elective care is only one part of the story. Covid-19 has had many hidden costs.

‘Passing the peak of the pandemic has been like a receding tide, revealing the underlying health of our nation.

‘It’s revealed some fractures within. And in many cases, the pandemic has deepened those fractures.

‘It’s this government’s mission to unite and level up across the whole of the UK, to build back better and to build back fairer.’

Separate NHS figures show one in ten people in England are stuck on the waiting list for routine operations.

A total 5.6million people across the country were waiting for elective surgery in July — the most since records began in 2007 — a number which has risen continuously during the pandemic.  

Waiting lists spiralled after Covid forced hospitals to cancel routine operations and turn over whole wards to patients suffering from the disease. 

Social distancing and extra Covid precautions have made it even harder to start chipping away at the record waiting lists. 

Record numbers of patients are now turning to private health rather than waiting for help from the NHS, figures show, with one private provider seeing patient numbers rise by 80 per cent on the back of the pandemic.  

The waiting list includes people waiting for operations like knee, hip and joint replacements, as well as cataracts surgery. 

The number who’ve waited more than a year to start treatment stood at 293,000 last month, almost three times as high as the same time last year when 83,000 had been on the list for this long.

And more than 1.7million people have been waiting more than 18 weeks for surgery, outside the period in which the NHS aims to see every patient.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid has warned the NHS waiting list could reach 13million without immediate action as he pledged to tackle growing numbers.  

Boris Johnson has promised to pump an extra £10billion a year into the NHS to clear the mammoth backlog, on top of a £5.4billion cash boost announced for the NHS a couple of days ago. 

But critics warned the money will simply be ‘swallowed up’ by the health service, which has been given no firm targets to hit to justify the cash.   

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