Massive surgery backlog due to COVID-19

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A report published in the Economist recently shone a light on the massive scale of delayed surgery as a result of COVID-19, both in the UK and around the world.

The NHS has already estimated that a whopping 2,000,000 surgical procedures have been delayed due to Coronavirus and a conservative estimate places the number at about 30 million worldwide. We can be sure that number will go up too as many countries are still in the grip of the pandemic.

In the UK these delays were necessary as hospitals were reaching peak capacity at the end of March, and 12,000 beds were freed up to deal with the threatened surge in demand. Fortunately we never got to capacity, in most places at least, and NHS hospitals remain largely empty.

Throughout this NHS leaders have been saying that patients who are ill should continue to attend A&E as normal but the reality is that many have been scared to do so.

Many of our surgeons have reported back to us in recent weeks that they are seeing lots of patients with complications that have arisen from the delay in getting the routine treatment they needed, simple cases of appendicitis are a good example of this. This is certainly having an effect on the increased all-cause mortality we have seen.

In the years ahead too there is going to be a heavy public health price to pay as a result of delayed operations and treatments. For example, there will be tens of thousands of people who have had their cancer diagnosis delayed or treatment delayed and there will be health consequences of this.

The good news is that operating theatres are starting to reopen and there is a collective will to start eating into the backlog.

New processes and protocols have been put in place to ensure this surgery can be undertaken safely. These involve pre-operative Covid testing, use of PPE and pre and post op quarantine.

If you have any questions the additional steps being taken to ensure patient safety call us on 0800 313 4618 or…

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Rishi Singhal

Rishi is an expert bariatric surgeon based in the West Midlands and also Medical Director at Healthier Weight

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