THE first three months of 2022 saw 17,477 operations cancelled in England amidst high rates of infection with the omicron variant of Covid-19.
NHS England performance figures also reveal that 23 per cent patients were not treated within 28 days of their cancellation, in breach of standards – and the total number of people waiting for consultant-led NHS hospital treatment in March reached a record 6.36 million.
The number of patients waiting more than two years for treatment was down from 23,281 in February to 16,796 in March. The most common long-waits seen were for trauma and orthopaedic treatment, such as hip and knee replacements (4,034); ear, nose and throat treatment (2,352); and general surgery, such as gallbladder removals and hernia operations (2,251).
Miss Fiona Myint, a consultant vascular surgeon and Vice President of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, commented: "Today’s figures show how Omicron played roulette with NHS plans this winter. Cancellations are devastating for patients and distressing for surgeons. The Omicron variant wreaked havoc, disrupting planned operations because patients were testing positive, or staff were off sick with the virus. Hospitals also had to wrestle with the long-running issue of staff vacancies, and struggled to discharge patients who were ready to leave, into social care.
"Winter is traditionally a difficult time for the NHS, when surgical beds are needed for seasonal viruses and emergencies. That’s why we have been calling for the creation of surgical hubs in every region, and a commitment to increase both the number of hospital beds and staff.
"With 110,000 staff vacancies, the NHS desperately needs a robust workforce plan. It is also critical that we support our surgical trainees to progress."
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