The NHS will not be able to get back to providing its full range of services for as long as four years because of the huge disruption caused by COVID-19, hospital bosses have warned.
Patients will face much longer waits than usual for operations and diagnostic tests because hospitals’ drive to remain infection-free means they are closing beds, and surgeons’ need to wear protective clothing means they are carrying out fewer procedures than before the pandemic.
In a stark admission of the complexity of reopening the NHS, a key health service leader has predicted that some hospitals will be able to provide only 40% of the care they previously delivered.
Hospitals are under pressure from ministers and health charities to restart services as soon as possible for patients with conditions such as cancer, obesity and joint problems. But the chief executives of three NHS trusts in England have told the Observer that the “sheer complexity” of getting back to normal amid the lingering effects of COVID-19 means progress will be very slow.
“It could be four years before waiting times get back to pre-Covid levels. We could see that. It’s certainly years, not months,” said Glen Burley, the group chief executive of Warwick hospital, George Eliot hospital in Nuneaton and County hospital in Hereford.
Source: The Guardian, 27 June 2020