Total surgical procedures fell by a third in 2020 compared to previous years
Experts projected this shortfall will increase to 2.4million operations by 2022
It has lead to avoidable deaths and plunged millions of patients into misery
By Eleanor Hayward and Shaun Wooller For The Daily Mail
Published: 19:02 EDT, 17 June 2021 | Updated: 19:02 EDT, 17 June 2021
More than 1.5million operations were cancelled or delayed last year as the pandemic wreaked havoc on NHS hospitals, a damning report reveals today.
Total surgical procedures plummeted by one third in 2020 compared with previous years due to the catastrophic impact of Covid-19.
Experts projected this shortfall will increase to 2.4million operations by the end of this year – leading to avoidable deaths and plunging millions of patients into misery and pain.
The study is the first to lay bare the true scale of disruption to surgery as the NHS stopped publishing official data on cancelled operations during the pandemic.
The figures emerged as Matt Hancock yesterday warned NHS waiting lists could double as patients who have put off seeking care during the pandemic come forward.
After 18 months of chemotherapy, Adrian Rogers was given a glimmer of hope when he was deemed ready for potentially life-saving bowel cancer surgery last February. Pictured, with his wife Amanda, 48
The Health Secretary revealed 7.1million fewer people than expected were added to the list for a diagnosis or non-urgent treatment last year.
Waiting lists already stand at a record 5.1million and are expected grow even as the NHS returns its focus to tackling the backlog.
The research compared levels of surgical procedures in England and Wales during 2020 with the average number carried out from 2016 to 2019. It found there were 1,568,664 fewer surgical admissions than expected, with total operations down 33 per cent.
The figures emerged as Matt Hancock (pictured) yesterday warned NHS waiting lists could double as patients who have put off seeking care during the pandemic come forward
Shockingly, only 2.3 per cent of planned elective operations occurred last April and overall surgery including emergencies fell by 73 per cent (file image)
The biggest fall in admissions was seen in ‘Class 3’ semi-urgent surgery for illnesses such as prostate or skin cancer. Some 904,000 fewer operations were carried out.
After 18 months of chemotherapy, Adrian Rogers was given a glimmer of hope when he was deemed ready for potentially life-saving bowel cancer surgery last February.
Adrian Rogers died in February
But when the pandemic hit, the 46-year-old’s operation was delayed and the number of tumours in his bowels and liver rose from six to 20. Tragically, in August he was told his cancer was terminal and he passed away in February.
At the time, Mr Rogers, from Nottinghamshire, said the health service left him and his family ‘high and dry’. After his death, his wife Amanda, 48, said: ‘I do often think about the what-ifs… what would’ve happened if he had been able to have his operation at the start of last year.’
Even ‘Class 1’ emergency life-saving surgery, such as for strokes or appendicitis, was down 13 per cent last year. Elective surgery – including hip and knee replacements or hernias – fell by 52 per cent with nearly half a million patients missing out.
Shockingly, only 2.3 per cent of planned elective operations occurred last April and overall surgery including emergencies fell by 73 per cent.
Hospitals were forced to cancel thousands of operations to make space for a surge in Covid patients and free intensive care beds.
The Government’s ‘stay at home’ message during lockdown has also been blamed for putting people off getting symptoms checked or coming forward for surgery out of fear of catching Covid.
The study, published today in the British Journal of Anaesthesia, concluded it would take six months of pre-pandemic surgical activity to get through the shortfall.
Co-lead author Dr Tom Dobbs, from Swansea University Medical School, said: ‘The interruption of surgical treatment… will be felt by millions of patients for many years to come. We need more financial commitment from Government and tough decisions to be made about which patients should be prioritised for NHS treatment over the coming weeks, months and years.’
Dr Tom Abbott, co-lead author from Queen Mary University of London, added: ‘The long-term consequence of the disruption is unclear but we anticipate that for many patients their quality of life will be severely affected.’
But an NHS spokesman said: ‘This study is wrong to compare the data in this way because the reduction in this activity occurred because fewer people came forward for care – this is why the NHS has been running a campaign encouraging people to access services when they need to, as normal.’
At the NHS Confederation conference yesterday, Mr Hancock said the Government will increase staffing and funding, and hopes to return treatment to above pre-pandemic levels.
Post source: Daily mail
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