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Many Facing NHS Operations Cancellations Due to Covid-19

Some of the UK’s top surgeons are warning that the rise in COVID-19 cases could result in the cancellation of many operations due to a lack of hospital bed capacity.  

Zara Tunnicliffe
· 3 min read

Some of the UK’s top surgeons are warning that the rise in COVID-19 cases could result in the cancellation of many operations due to a lack of hospital bed capacity.  

Royal College of Surgeons of England members have expressed concerns over whether the NHS can reach their targets to get surgery procedures back on track and bring proceedings back to pre-COVID levels. 

Many routine surgeries were put on hold to free up beds for people suffering from COVID-19 who needed medical attention. Hospitals are now dealing with a backlog, but the rise in cases is also proving overwhelming.

In a July letter to NHS trusts, NHS England boss Sir Simon Stevens said that, by September, hospitals should running at 80% of their 2019 rates for overnight planned procedures and outpatient or day-case procedures. Stevens also said that they should be up at 90% of their 2019 rate by October.

In July, there was an increase in the number of routine procedures that were performed. There were more than 140,000 operations, such as knee and hip operations, performed in July, a significant improvement on the 41,000 that done in April. However, this is still less than half of what was done in July last year.

A Royal College of Surgeons of England survey, which questioned 1,000 of its members, found only 14% of them could treat the same number of patients as before the pandemic. In the same survey, 48% of members said operations were only being completed at only 50-80% of 2019 rates.

Prof Neil Mortensen, the president of the college, told the BBC, "This is a national crisis requiring a truly national effort across all hospitals - private and NHS alike. As the virus becomes more prevalent again, there is a real risk of a tsunami of cancelled operations unless surgical beds are funded and protected.” 

He further urged that funding is needed, saying, "Building up theatre capacity and designating beds exclusively for those who need an operation”, was completely necessary. 

An NHS spokesperson said the survey underestimated the amount of surgery currently going on in the NHS, adding the NHS met its goals for August.

their bed capacity.

He told the BBC, "The NHS has flexed its hospital capacity and community services as needed throughout the pandemic, treating over 110,000 severely ill people for Covid-19, and doubling the number of non-urgent operations since April. More people are set to benefit from the deal struck with independent hospitals also to make use of 

"Covid inpatient numbers are rising and much depends on keeping the virus under control through continued public action on hands-face-space, Test and Trace service, and rapid action to control local outbreaks,"

Zara Tunnicliffe

Zara Tunnicliffe

Writing has allowed Zara to learn about topics and explore further those that interest her. Zara creates a range promotional copy for events as well as content for a variety of websites and social media platforms. Zara always look forward to researching interesting topics and sharing them with others through her writing.