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Number of NHS patients admitted for routine ops drops 82% in a year and cancer waits hit record low

The number of NHS patients admitted for routine operations has dropped 82 per cent in a year and cancer waits have hit a record low as devastating statistics today revealed the strain Covid-19 has put on hospitals.

Shocking NHS England data showed the number of patients admitted for treatment across the country plummeted to 54,550 in May, compared with the 295,881 last May.

And 1.45million patients have had to wait at least 18 weeks to start hospital treatment for routine operations such as hip and knee replacements — the worst since 2007 and more than double last May.

Official figures also revealed fewer than half (47.9 per cent) of people who got diagnosed with cancer after a screening appointment managed to get potentially life-saving treatment within the target time of two months.

On top of this, cancer waiting times in England have hit an all-time during the coronavirus crisis. One in every 16 patients was left waiting for at least a month to start treatment after a doctor had decided they needed it.

The shocking NHS data also found: 

  • Some 26,000 people have been waiting more than a year for a routine operation, which is 26 times higher than this time last year and the highest on record since September 2009;
  • Just 62.2 per cent of people were seen within 18 weeks, the records for May show, against a target of 95 per cent;
  • More than half a million patients in England have been waiting more than six weeks for a key diagnostic test – such as an MRI, non-obstetric ultrasound or gastroscopy –  in May.
Number of NHS patients admitted for routine ops drops 82 per cent in a year: The number of patients admitted plummeted to 54,550 in May this year, the lowest ever one record and a drop from 295,881 in May 2019

Number of NHS patients admitted for routine ops drops 82 per cent in a year: The number of patients admitted plummeted to 54,550 in May this year, the lowest ever one record and a drop from 295,881 in May 2019

As the darkest days of the Covid-19 crisis appear behind Britain, the data suggests the NHS is still struggling with the back end of the pandemic. 

NHS England figures show admissions to hospital have drastically declined since March 2020, when the coronavirus first took hold on British soil.

Some 54,550 were admitted for a routine operation in May this year. The only month with lower admissions was April 2020, with 41,121.

It was a drastic drop from the 207,754 the month before, which was the lowest that has even been recorded since records began – in April 2007, when 246,013 patients went in for an operation.

As the health service faces a huge backlog of operations, the waiting lists have soared, figures show.

The number of people having to wait more than 18 weeks to start hospital treatment rose to 1.45million in May this year.

Just 62.2 per cent of people were seen within 18 weeks, the records for May show, against a target of 95 per cent. 

The number of people having to wait more than 52 weeks to start hospital treatment in England also jumped to 26,029 in May 2020, up from 1,032 in May 2019 and the highest number for any calendar month since September 2009. 

Within the damning NHS England figures today, it was revealed 571,459 patients (58.5 per cent) had been waiting at least six weeks for a key diagnostic test in May 2020. 

In comparison, only 43,230 patients (4.1 per cent) were still waiting for potentially life-saving tests – such as MRI or CT scans – last May.

The biggest six-week-plus waiting lists were for ultrasound scans for reasons other than pregnancy (156,787), often used to diagnose internal conditions.

More than 86,000 patients were also waiting for MRI scans, which are also used to spot various illnesses, injuries and cancers

Waits for a sigmoidoscopy, in which a camera is inserted into the rectum to check for bowel cancer or ulcers, have also got significantly longer.

Thirteen-week waits have also hit a record high, with 166,836 patients left waiting at least three months for crucial tests – up from 5,398 the year before.

Commenting on the statistics today, Dr Nick Scriven, immediate past president of the Society for Acute Medicine, said: ‘Clearly NHS performance across the board continues to be hugely affected by Covid-19, though we must also remember performance has been poor for a lot longer than that and questions need to be answered as to how we ensure the sustainable future of the service.’

He said the society was ‘very concerned about the growing crisis in accessing diagnostic tests’.

The total number of patients waiting six weeks or more for any of the 15 key tests is at 571,500 – 58.5 per cent of the total number of patients waiting.

Dr Scriven said this was ‘shocking given the target is 1 per cent’. 

NHS England figures also show cancer referrals made by GPs in England dropped by 47 per cent in May 2020 – 106,535 compared with 200,599 in May 2019 – which doctors say is the result of people not coming forward if they have symptoms.

This is the number of people seen by a cancer consultant within two weeks of being referred. 

Urgent breast cancer referrals showed an even bigger drop: down from 15,802 in May 2019 to 5,371 in May 2020, a fall of 66 per cent.

Michelle Mitchell, Cancer Research UK’s chief executive, said: ‘This is yet more worrying evidence of the impact COVID-19 has had on cancer patients and services. 

‘While it’s encouraging that the number of urgent cancer referrals has started to recover since the steep decline in April, the latest figures for May are still worryingly low. And we know from local figures that urgent referrals are not yet back to normal levels, well past the peak of the virus.

‘Months of delays have continued to add to the mounting cancer backlog, which will take considerable effort, time and money to clear. 

‘Above all, people should really feel reassured that it’s safe to use our health services again. If you’re worrying about symptoms, please contact your GP right away and if you need tests do follow your doctor’s advice to have these without further delay.’

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