NEARLY 60 per cent of doctors think it will take at least 18 months for the NHS to recover from the pandemic, with 30 per cent predicting it will take over two years.
These findings are from the most recent Royal College of Physicians London survey of members practicing during the pandemic.
The survey also found that 69 per cent of doctors report feeling exhausted and 31 per cent feel demoralised.
Delays in care look particularly acute within certain specialist areas of medicine, such as gastroenterology, in which 75 per cent of specialists think backlogs will take over a year to clear. Other specialties where physicians expect it to take over a year to return to "normal" include dermatology (82 per cent), rehabilitation medicine (67 per cent), respiratory (59 per cent), oncology (58 per cent) and cardiology (52 per cent).
Backlogs are exacerbated by continuing delays for diagnostic testing. Clinical physiology is the worst affected, with 87 per cent of respondents to the survey experiencing delays for outpatient tests and 73 per cent for inpatients. Delays in outpatient endoscopy testing were reported by 82 per cent of doctors.
Professor Andrew Goddard, president of the Royal College of Physicians London, said: "Doctors are rightly concerned about the length of time it will take to deal with the enormous backlog of non-Covid care that has built up over the pandemic. We know our patients are waiting for treatment, and in many cases have been waiting for some time already.
"The problem is workforce. Vacancies were high going into the pandemic – we simply don’t have enough doctors to meet demand which is why we need to expand the workforce. We need to double the number of medical school places and establish transparent processes to ensure we are training enough people now to meet future demand."
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