100-fold increase in number awaiting elective hospital treatment

THE Covid-19 pandemic has led to a 100-fold increase in the number of people waiting over a year for elective hospital treatment in England, according to figures for September published by the NHS.

Referral-to-treatment (RTT) statistics show that 139,545 patients had waited over 52 weeks for treatment in September of this year compared to 1,305 patients in September 2019. This represents a year-on-year increase of a factor of more than 100.

Professor Neil Mortensen, President of the Royal College of Surgeons of England commented: "Today’s figures really bring home the impact of Covid on other NHS services. Thousands of patients who were already waiting for surgery when Covid struck, have paid a heavy price. It is tragic to see so many lives put on hold.

"Each statistic represents someone waiting patiently, potentially in pain, for the treatment they need to get on with living an independent life. Older people and poorer people are particularly hard hit by these delays.

"We still have a tough winter to get through, but looking ahead to next year, our ambition must be that no one should have to wait more than a year for surgery again. The NHS needs a 'new deal' to get back on track after the devastation caused by the pandemic, with extra investment from government in hospital beds and staff."

Also responding to the figures, Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA council chair, said: "News of a Covid vaccine is welcome but it could still be many weeks or even months before any are widely available or that GP practices are properly resourced to vaccinate large numbers of people - and unlikely to be in time to help reduce hospital admissions this winter.

"The Government must provide an urgent and comprehensive plan, backed by appropriate funding across secondary, primary and community care to help frontline services cope this winter.

"Without this, we will be left to deal with the impact of this national health crisis long after the risk of Covid subsides."

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