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One in 50 NHS patients have now been waiting a YEAR or more for planned surgery

One in 50 NHS patients have now been waiting a year or more for planned surgery due to treatment delays caused by coronavirus.

NHS England data released today shows 83,000 patients (2.1 per cent of the total) referred for routine operations have still not been treated 52 weeks later.

Those most affected include people waiting for hip and knee replacements, cataract surgery or to have painful kidney stones removed.

Statistics also show the number of those waiting for elective ops for more than 18 weeks is at a 12-year high, with more than two million Britons now overdue. 

Hospitals are struggling to get through the slog of patients waiting for ops because they shut down all non-emergency treatment for months during the crisis. They are still only running at a fraction of their usual capacity.

There are currently four million people on waiting lists for elective surgery but NHS bosses expect that number to grow to a record 10million by the end of the year.

One in 50 NHS patients have now been waiting a year or more for planned surgery. The number of those waiting for elective ops for more than 18 weeks is at a 12-year high, with more than two million Britons now overdue

One in 50 NHS patients have now been waiting a year or more for planned surgery. The number of those waiting for elective ops for more than 18 weeks is at a 12-year high, with more than two million Britons now overdue

A&E waiting times have also started to dip again now that more people are coming forward for treatment. Most A&E departments lay bare earlier this year because people were either too spooked to come in case they caught Covid-19 or didn’t want to be a burden on the NHS

A&E waiting times have also started to dip again now that more people are coming forward for treatment. Most A&E departments lay bare earlier this year because people were either too spooked to come in case they caught Covid-19 or didn’t want to be a burden on the NHS

The NHS data shows that there were 3,097 people waiting a year or more for routine surgeries at the start of March. 

This figure had spiked to 83,203 by July after doubling every month since March and is likely to have risen further in the month-and-a-half since.

NHS surgeons are only working at 50% capacity because of Covid-19 

NHS surgeons are only working at around 50 per cent capacity in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, despite record numbers of people on the waiting list for routine treatment. 

Professor Neil Mortensen, president of the the Royal College of Surgeons, revealed surgeons ‘didn’t have much to do’ during the lockdown, as routine operations were cancelled to make room for an expected swarm of Covid-19 patients.

But they are struggling to get back to pre-coronavirus activity levels, despite barely any infected patients being in hospital. Surgeons say infection control measures and a lack of testing have left them unable to attack the backlog.  

Professor Mortensen told The Telegraph: ‘Most surgeons would say productivity is around half what it was before.’

He told the newspaper that there were obstacles in restoring services to levels seen before Covid-19, which experts say is needed to clear the backlog. Health bosses fear up to 10million patients will be left waiting for treatment by this winter.

A lack of routine testing for NHS staff is hindering efforts to create ‘Covid-free’ zones in hospitals, he said.

And doctors have previously warned social distancing in hospitals will mean fewer patients can be admitted at any given time.

And the number of patients who have waited more than four months is the highest since modern records began, with more than half not being treated in that time.

A total of 2.15million Britons still had not been treated after 18 weeks by July this year, after rising from 1.85million in July.

It is the biggest 18-week waiting list since August 2007, when the figure was 1.8million.

Waiting times are expected to increase even further over the coming months because hospitals must enforce stricter infection control measures.

This means only a limited number of patients can attend clinics or stay overnight on wards and theatres must be more thoroughly cleaned between procedures, meaning fewer operations can take place. 

Official statistics show that A&E waiting times have also started to dip again, now that more people are coming forward for treatment.

One in 10 people waited four hours or more to be seen in A&E departments in England in August of this year.

But this had been squashed to just one in 15 in May, when most A&E departments lay bare because people were either too spooked to come in case they caught Covid-19 or didn’t want to be a burden on the health service.

On average just 75,000 patients were coming forward every month for emergency treatment during the lockdown.

Now, attendance levels are starting to creep back to to normal, with 160,000 going to A&E in August – just over 50 per cent of the yearly average.

For comparison, this time last year more than a quarter of a million patients were admitted to A&E.

Gbemi Babalola, a senior analyst at The King’s Fund think-tank, said: ‘The long waits for care highlighted by these figures are a timely reality check on the challenges facing NHS services as they get back up and running and work through the backlog of patients who need support.

‘Significant effort is going into new ways to treat and support patients, such as more virtual consultations and redesigning waiting rooms and clinical areas to reduce the risk of infection.

‘But the reality is that many frontline NHS staff are physically and emotionally exhausted by the pandemic, new safety restrictions mean some treatments and procedures take longer to deliver, and there are indications that patients remain hesitant to use some face-to-face NHS services, a phenomenon likely to persist as infection rates rise again.

‘As it stands, the nationally set targets for the recovery of NHS performance seem very ambitious.’

‘NHS staff are working hard to restore services to full capacity, and help is available when people need urgent care and treatment. At the same time, there needs to be honesty about what is achievable, and recognition that, as we head into the traditionally challenging winter months, long waits for routine diagnostic and surgical procedures are likely here to stay.’

NHS waiting times are expected to increase substantially over the coming months because hospitals must enforce stricter infection control measures.

This means only a limited number of patients can attend clinics or stay overnight on wards and theatres must be more thoroughly cleaned between procedures, meaning fewer operations can take place.

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