While the pressure facing the NHS over Covid hospitalisations may have now dissipated, numerous other problems have arisen. It was recently reported that NHS dental patients could be waiting three years for treatment. At the same time, GP surgeries are under immense pressure because of a shortage of GPs and mounting demand from patients.
It has now been revealed there is a ‘colossal backlog’ of non-urgent operations, which members of the Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) have expressed concerns about. The RCS is now calling for temporary surgery hubs to be set up across England to help clear the backlog of routine procedures. It says such a move will help the health service recover from the pandemic.
According to government officials, they are doing their best to “accelerate the recovery of services.” However, figures show that there were close to five million people on waiting lists for surgery in March, which is the highest on record.
Lengthy waits for surgeries
It is not just the number of people on waiting lists causing concern but also the length of time they have been waiting. NHS England figures show close to half a million have been waiting more than a year for their procedure. Before the pandemic, this figure stood at just 1,600.
The impact of the pandemic on health services has gone far beyond dealing with the virus itself. It has also had an enormous impact on other areas of health services delivery.
The president of the RCS, Professor Neil Mortensen, said, "Surgery must be available on the NHS all year round, not stop and start.” He added, "If a dangerous new variant of Covid-19 takes hold, or another bad flu arrives in the autumn, we cannot allow surgery to grind to a halt again or waiting lists will become insurmountable."
Adaptations need to be made
Mr Mortensen also said that adaptations within the health service needed to be made to reflect the changes that have taken place. He said both health service employees and patients had already become used to adapting to change but that more changes were needed to help the health service and patients.
The RCS wants around 40 new hubs set up in existing NHS buildings for non-urgent surgical procedures. This would then reduce the risk of infections spreading from other areas of the hospital while bringing medical specialists together under one roof for greater efficiency and use of NHS resources.
Although patients may have to travel further for their procedures, the RCS said its research suggests patients would be more than happy to do this if it meant getting their treatment faster.