Health

10million patients could be stuck on NHS surgery waiting lists by Christmas due to coronavirus

Ten million people could be stuck on NHS waiting lists by the end of the year due to coronavirus hold-ups, health bosses have warned.  

Last August there were a record 4.41million patients in England waiting for routine operations, a rise of 250,000 from the same month a year earlier.

But that number is expected to more than double because of a backlog triggered by the Covid-19 crisis, according to NHS projections.   

When officials realised the virus was spreading out of control in the UK they urged hospitals to cancel operations and turf out patients to make way for a surge in virus cases. 

The move stopped hospitals from being overwhelmed but hundreds of thousands of non-virus patients have had treatment delayed as a result.   

The health service is also bracing for its worst winter on record, when it will have to battle an influx of patients with seasonal flu and Covid-19.  

Ten million people will be stuck on NHS waiting lists for surgeries by the end of the year because of coronavirus hold-ups, health bosses have warned (file image)

Ten million people will be stuck on NHS waiting lists for surgeries by the end of the year because of coronavirus hold-ups, health bosses have warned (file image) 

A new report by the NHS Confederation, which represents represents health and care leaders, predicts 10million people on waiting lists by Christmas. 

Bosses behind the projection said a best case scenario could see 8million people waiting for treatment, if a vaccine or therapy comes along before then. 

Experts have warned it could take two years to clear the backlog, even if there is no second wave of coronavirus. 

2.4 MILLION patients are caught in coronavirus cancer backlog

Almost 2.5million patients have missed out on vital cancer tests and treatment because of the pandemic.

The NHS faces the shocking backlog of cases as it tries to return to normal – and also cope with new victims of the disease.

Cancer Research UK says 2.1million patients are awaiting crucial screening for breast, cervical and bowel cancer. 

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. 

Some of these procedures would have saved lives or extended them, granting precious extra time with loved ones. 

It is also thought patients with warning signs of cancer have avoided seeking help because they are worried about contracting coronavirus in a surgery or hospital. 

The numbers awaiting cancer treatment are extremely worrying, according to Sarah Woolnough, policy chief at Cancer Research UK.

She added: ‘We’re going to have this huge backlog to clear. It’s a massive backlog of services and treatment to deliver. It’s absolutely huge, it’s thousands and thousands and thousands.’

The report warned services will be operating at around 60 per cent capacity because of new NHS infection control and social distancing measures.  

NHS Confederation chief executive Niall Dickson has written to Boris Johnson to prepare the public for the huge waits they will have to face for months after the crisis is over. 

He has also called for assurances about personal protective equipment (PPE) and the effectiveness of the Government’s Test and Trace programme.

And the report also calls for an extension of the current deal with the independent sector until the end of the financial year ‘to provide capacity to support the NHS to manage the backlog of treatment’.

More than 8,000 private beds in England were bought up by ministers in March at an estimated cost of £2.4million a day.

The beds have been under public control for 11 weeks, thought to have cost the taxpayer at least a staggering 150million already, with the figure rising every day.

Private hospitals are now meant to be operating as ‘Covid-free hubs’ to get back up and running for vulnerable people, including cancer patients.  

Mr Dickson said: ‘Political leaders have a vital role to play in reassuring the public that every step possible is being taken to manage the virus, while safely bringing back services that had to be paused. 

‘Retaining public confidence and trust in the NHS will be vital over the next few months. 

‘The NHS wants to get back to providing these vital services – the virus has inflicted pain and suffering throughout the UK, but we also know the measures to combat it have come at a terrible cost to those who have not been able to access the care, treatment and support they need and to many whose conditions have gone undiagnosed. 

‘There is a real determination to rise to this challenge, but it will need extra funding and capacity, not least in rehabilitation and recovery services in the community where so much of the coming demand will be felt.’  

It comes after the Society for Acute Medicine (SAM) warned earlier this week that the NHS must prepare for a ‘winter like no other’ as it copes both with seasonal flu and coronavirus. 

Birmingham University researchers estimate that the surgery backlog could cost the NHS £4billion due to surgeons – who get paid in blocks of work – having to put in more hours.    

Private hospitals commandeered for Britain’s Covid-19 crisis at a cost of £150million are STILL empty – despite huge backlog of NHS patients needing routine surgery and vital cancer treatment

Private hospitals taken over by the NHS to fight coronavirus at a cost of hundreds of millions of pounds to the taxpayer remain almost completely empty – despite a huge backlog of patients needing cancer treatment and routine surgery, medics say.

More than 8,000 private beds in England were bought up by ministers in March at an estimated cost of £2.4million a day, in anticipation of NHS hospitals being overwhelmed by the Covid-19 outbreak.  

The beds have been under public control for 11 weeks, thought to have cost the taxpayer at least a staggering 150million already, with the figure rising every day. 

But the health service’s intensive care wards were not overrun during the peak of the pandemic and the majority of the private beds went unused.

Up to a fifth of routine operations on the NHS were also postponed to make way for a surge in virus patients, resulting in tens of thousands of patients enduring delays to treatment.

Private hospitals are now meant to be operating as ‘Covid-free hubs’ to get back up and running for vulnerable people, including cancer patients.

But a senior consultant said today ‘very few’ of these patients were being referred to the private hospitals, leaving them almost completely empty.

It has meant ‘tens of thousands’ of cancer patients – who need urgent treatment to boost their survival rates – are missing out on vital treatment every month.

Private hospitals taken over by NHS at a cost of hundreds of millions of pounds to fight the coronavirus pandemic are ¿sinfully empty¿, claim medics. Pictured: The ICU wards at the hastily built Nightingale Hospital have barely been used throughout the crisis

Private hospitals taken over by NHS at a cost of hundreds of millions of pounds to fight the coronavirus pandemic are ‘sinfully empty’, claim medics. Pictured: The ICU wards at the hastily built Nightingale Hospital have barely been used throughout the crisis

Professor Karol Sikora (pictured) is consultant oncologist and professor of medicine, University of Buckingham Medical School

Professor Karol Sikora (pictured) is consultant oncologist and professor of medicine, University of Buckingham Medical School

The 8,000 beds are said to be costing the NHS £2.4million per day, according to the Mirror. They have been under public control since March 21, which was 10 weeks and 5 days, or simply 75 days, ago. 

Rough estimates suggest taxpayers have already forked out £180million for the beds.

Karol Sikora, a consultant oncologist and professor of medicine at the University of Buckingham Medical School, told MailOnline: ‘Once it became clear the private beds would not be needed for Covid patients, the idea was to use private hospitals as Covid-free zones. But that has only partly materialised. 

‘Because the NHS is not doing surgeries, thousands of cancers are going undiagnosed. Surgery is needed in some cases to diagnose someone with the disease and get them started on their treatment.

‘Because the patients are not being diagnosed, they are not coming through the system.

FROM 2.5MILLION BRITS MISSING OUT ON CANCER TESTS TO 1.3MILLION PEOPLE NOT GETTING ROUTINE SURGERY: HOW THE REDUCED NHS SERVICE HAS AFFECTED BRITAIN 

SURGERIES CANCELLED

More than 8million people will be stuck on NHS surgery waiting lists by autumn because treatment delays due to Covid-19, experts fear.

Last August there were a record-high 4.41million patients in England on waiting lists for routine operations.

But that number is expected to more than double because of a backlog triggered by the Covid-19 crisis, according to the Nuffield Trust.

Nigel Edwards, its chief executive, last month told MPs hospitals have only been able to carry out around ’15 to 20 per cent’ of elective procedures.

His claim came on the back of a separate study by health analysts, which predicted 7.2million people would be on waiting lists by autumn.

SCRAPPED CANCER TREATMENTS 

Almost 2.5million patients have missed out on vital cancer tests and treatment because of the pandemic.

The NHS faces the shocking backlog of cases as it tries to return to normal – and also cope with new victims of the disease.

Cancer Research UK says 2.1million patients are awaiting crucial screening for breast, cervical and bowel cancer.

Another 290,000 have missed out on urgent referrals to confirm or rule out tumours.

‘We know there should be 30,000 new cancer patients every month – but this month there have been less than 5,000 that have come for treatment.

‘It’s not that there are less people with cancer, it’s that they are not being diagnosed because of a bottleneck in the NHS.

‘The whole thing has set us back a year, no other country has struggled this much to open healthcare back up. I don’t know what’s behind the bottleneck, maybe it’s a staffing issue.’  

Senior clinicians at private hospitals claim hundreds of the country’s best doctors have been left ‘twiddling their thumbs’ during the outbreak – putting people’s health at risk from other illnesses and postponed operations.

It has left private patients with no option but to join huge NHS waiting lists triggered by the pandemic.

Nigel Edwards, chief executive of the Nuffield Trust think-tank, said hospitals have only been able to carry out around ’15 to 20 per cent’ of surgeries, meaning up to 1.3million patients are missing out every month. 

In one case, a 78-year-old woman with breast cancer was denied surgery at a private clinic by the local NHS manager even though the hospital was empty, according to The Times. The patient was instead referred back to the NHS. 

Cancer Research says almost 2.5million patients have missed out on vital cancer tests and treatment due to shocking backlogs during the crisis.

Medical bodies said the biggest threat to the nation’s health was the lack of healthcare rather than coronavirus itself.   

FATHER WITH TERMINAL CANCER IS STILL WAITING FOR SURGERY – TWO MONTHS AFTER IT WAS CANCELLED

A father with terminal cancer is still waiting for surgery two months after it was cancelled the day before it was due to take place.

Glynne Pugh, 68, has bowel cancer and was given 12 months to live last November. He was due to have an operation at St James’s University Hospital in Leeds on March 23.

His family were told the postponement was due to the closure of the operating theatre for coronavirus training. 

Mr Pugh’s son Bradley, 32, said at the time: ‘It was just devastating – mum and dad were completely in shock and obviously tearful. As a family we understand how much pressure the NHS is under, but we feel that, as dad’s operation is life or death, the cancer might spread. There is only about six months left, that’s the problem.’

Glynne Pugh, 68, pictured above with his son Brad, has bowel cancer and was given 12 months to live last November. He was due to have an operation at St James¿s University Hospital in Leeds on March 23

Glynne Pugh, 68, pictured above with his son Brad, has bowel cancer and was given 12 months to live last November. He was due to have an operation at St James’s University Hospital in Leeds on March 23

His father has survived cancer twice before and his family insist he is strong enough to endure treatment again, but the operation remains vital. 

‘There was hope there for the whole family, which was everyone was holding out for,’ said Bradley, of Stroud, Gloucestershire. 

Richard Packard, chairman of the Federation of Independent Practitioner Organisations, which represents private consultants, told The Times: ‘The money being poured into the private sector is a total waste. 

‘The NHS cannot afford to subsidise private hospitals and nor should it have to. Likewise, the UK simply cannot afford to allow medical and surgical capacity to sit idle whilst pathology and waiting lists build and patients suffer.’

One London-based private consultant orthopaedic surgeon said last month there was a ‘sinful’ and ‘shocking’ mass of empty private hospitals and empty beds.

‘Most of them are gathering dust, with a whole load of doctors twiddling their thumbs. And it’s costing the NHS millions.’

The surgeon said only ’emergency’ and ‘time-critical’ operations were being allowed at his hospital.

A second medic said his hospital was ‘fairly empty and under used’ while another said he was ‘pretty bored’. ‘I am unsure if the hospitals are being used in the most efficient way,’ he admitted.

A fourth doctor said private hospitals in north London were ‘largely empty’ despite repeated offers to help out with patients from overrun NHS wards. 

In March it appeared the NHS might need every ventilator and intensive care bed, with some scientists warning that tens of thousands would be dying every day.

‘It was the right thing to do at the time as we had to look at what was happening in Italy and Spain and react accordingly,’ said one medic.

Another doctor added: ‘Preparing for an epidemic is a very difficult balance. If you get it right, it’s by pure luck.’

However, he warned that more people could end up dying early of illnesses like cancer and heart disease: ‘At what point does the cost of this ‘medical lockdown’ to people’s health outweigh the benefits?’

Some private hospitals are reportedly in talks to extend their NHS contracts that put them under public control – as a safety net in case of a resurgence in Covid admissions.

One consultant told The Times this arrangement suited private hospitals because it meant the taxpayer was covering the salaries of senior staff.

Private hospitals’ ability to make profit will be severely hampered when these deals end.

Social distancing measures, a lack of PPE and new cleaning regimes will mean they will have to operate at greatly reduced capacity.

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