Surgical staff in England face a “mountain to climb”

  • Date: 13 October 2020

A TOTAL of 111,026 people in England had waited 52 weeks or more for an operation in August 2020, which is the highest number since 2008, according to figures released by NHS England.

President of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, Professor Neil Mortensen has commented: "Today’s data show what a mountain the NHS has to climb to get on top of the immense backlog of planned operations, with more than 100,000 people now having waited longer than a year for treatment.

"Huge efforts are being made to keep in touch with patients, monitor their conditions and to get surgical services going again after the Covid stoppage."

The figures also revealed that the number of patients waiting longer than 18 weeks dropped slightly from 2,151,443 in July 2020, to 1,959,684 in August 2020 – but this is still the second highest figure on record after last month.

Professor Mortensen added: "It is welcome to see a slight drop in the number of patients who have waited longer than 18 weeks, reflecting what Trusts are doing to get people seen and treated.

"But the continued recovery of surgical services cannot be taken for granted. Winter pressures from a flu outbreak, along with a resurging incidence of coronavirus, will put the fragile recovery of planned surgery at risk. Action is needed right now to ensure staff are Covid-tested regularly, and beds are ring-fenced for patients who really need their operation.

"It is also of critical importance that patients continue to come forward to their GPs for referral if they are unwell; early detection of disease always makes for more effective treatment, so people must not be deterred because they know waiting lists are long."

The RCS England also recently called from for hospital beds to be ring-fenced for planned operations, to avoid a "tsunami of cancellations" during the second wave of Covid-19.

The demand comes as the College published a report showing that the NHS has been unable to meet its target of returning surgery to 80 per cent capacity by the end of September. The service set an objective in July to return to 90 per cent capacity by the end of October, but efforts to meet the target are falling behind.

Read the report: Protecting surgery through a second wave

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