'Hubs' needed to clear "colossal" backlog of non-urgent operations, surgeons say

28 May 2021, 08:01

The Royal College of Surgeons says there is a "colossal backlog" of non-urgent operations
The Royal College of Surgeons says there is a "colossal backlog" of non-urgent operations. Picture: Getty

By Daisy Stephens

Specialist surgical hubs need to be established in England to tackle a "colossal backlog" of non-urgent procedures, the Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) said.

As well as the hubs, which the RCS say would alleviate pressure from Covid as well as seasonal flu, the professional body has also called on the Government to commit to spending an extra £1 billion on surgery annually for the next five years as part of 12 recommendations which are "long and short-term measures designed to improve the future sustainability of surgical services".

Professor Neil Mortensen, president of the RCS, said: "We need Government support for a New Deal for Surgery to reduce the colossal backlog in elective surgery and to help the NHS weather future pandemics.

"Surgery must be available on the NHS all year round, not stop and start.

"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."

Elective surgeries, such as hip and knee replacements, were cancelled during the early stages of the pandemic, leaving 4.96 million people waiting to start NHS hospital treatment at the end of March 2021 – the highest number since records began in August 2007.

Nearly half a million people had to wait more than a year for treatment, prompting NHS England to announce funding of £160 million to trial a number of initiatives to clear the backlog, including virtual wards, 3D scanners and at-home antibiotic kits.

Read more: Covid-19 vaccines have 'prevented 40,000 hospitalisations in England so far'

Read more: Indian variant now dominant Covid-19 strain in the UK, Matt Hancock confirms

The announcement of extra funding was welcomed by Arthritis charity Versus Arthritis, with head of policy and public affairs Tracey Loftis saying people awaiting joint replacement surgery are in “distress” and “struggling to cope with pain which is impossible to ignore”.

The hubs proposed by the RCS would be in every Integrated Care System, of which there are 42 in England.

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