NHS could be behind schedule for FOUR YEARS, doctors warn because of treatment backlog caused by coronavirus crisis
- Some hospitals will only be able to provide 40 per cent of the care they delivered before the crisis
- Hospital bosses said they are doing everything they can to restore services
- Waiting lists for operations could rise from 4.2 million to 10 million by the end of this year
The NHS will not be able to return to normal for as long as four years due to the treatment backlog caused by the coronavirus crisis, hospital bosses warned.
Some hospitals will only be able to provide 40 per cent of the care they delivered before the crisis began due to their drive to remain infection-free.
The waiting list for operations could rise from 4.2 million people to 10 million by the end of this year, experts believe.
Hospitals are closing beds and surgeons are carrying out fewer procedures because they need to wear protective clothing, The Observer reported.
Some hospitals will only be able to provide 40 per cent of the care they delivered before the crisis began due to their drive to remain infection-free
Group chief executive of Warwick hospital, George Eliot hospital in Nuneaton and County hospital in Hereford Glen Burley said: ‘It could be four years before waiting times get back to pre-Covid levels. We could see that. It’s certainly years, not months.’
Many normal services were reduced so that hospitals could focus on tackling coronavirus.
They are now under pressure from ministers and health charities to resume care for patients with conditions such as cancer and obesity.
Chief executive of the NHS Confederation, which represents health service trusts, Niall Dickson told The Observer: ‘With social distancing and the need for personal protective equipment it is simply not possible in many services to deliver as much care as would have been possible in the past.
‘Some services will not manage much more than 40% productivity.’
Tumours have spread when surgery was postponed and also have gone undetected.
2.1 million patients are awaiting crucial screening for breast, cervical and bowel cancer, Cancer Research UK said at the end of May.
Another 290,000 have missed out on urgent referrals to confirm or rule out tumours.
And at least 21,600 patients have had surgery, chemotherapy or radiotherapy postponed in the past nine weeks.
Hospital bosses said they are doing everything they can to restore services before the extra pressure of next winter.
Hospital bosses said they are doing everything they can to restore services before the extra pressure of next winter
A potential second wave of coronavirus could force care to be suspended again, so hospital bosses plan to increase the number of beds and treat as many patients as they can.
Some hospital trusts have split their hospitals, using one to treat emergency cases and coronavirus patients, with another for planned procedures.
On Friday surgeons called for same-day coronavirus testing so hospitals could start clearing the backlog of NHS operations.
One in three surgeons said they can’t restart routine ops, such as hip and knee replacements – despite pressure to resume normal services.
More than half of people waiting for tests in England had been waiting for six weeks or more by April.
In February just 2.8 per cent of people booked in for tests had to wait for six weeks, but this had soared to 55 per cent by April because of the pandemic.