Operations are being cancelled across England as Covid causes “major disruption” inside the NHS, the country’s top surgeon has said, as doctors and health leaders say the government’s backlog targets look increasingly unachievable.
Six million people are on the waiting list for NHS hospital care, including more than 23,000 who have waited more than two years.
Boris Johnson said in February that he had launched “the biggest catch-up programme in the history of the health service”, but in the same month he dropped every domestic Covid restriction. Now record-high Covid rates are wreaking havoc with the ability of the NHS to catch up with surgery that was delayed or cancelled before and during the pandemic.
More than 28,000 staff are off work every day due to Covid, recent figures show, while more than 20,000 patients are in hospital with Covid, which has dramatically reduced the number of beds and space available for planned surgery patients.
“Unfortunately, Covid-19 continues to cause major disruption in the NHS, with high staff absences in recent weeks,” Prof Neil Mortensen, the president of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, told the Guardian.
“We have heard that planned surgery is being cancelled again in different parts of the country due to staff being off sick with the virus. This is understandably frustrating for surgical teams who want to help their patients by getting planned surgery up and running again. It’s also very distressing for patients who need a planned operation.”
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Source: The Guardian, 14 April 2022