Multiple London hospitals suspend non-urgent operations due to Covid-19 pressures

21 December 2020, 16:09

The Royal Free London Trust have paused “all non-urgent, time critical planned procedures".
The Royal Free London Trust have paused “all non-urgent, time critical planned procedures". Picture: Royal Free Hospital

By Joe Cook

Two of London’s major NHS Trusts have begun postponing routine care and non-urgent operations due to Covid-19 pressures, as the capital faces a surge in cases.

From Monday afternoon, the Royal Free London Trust have paused “all non-urgent, time critical planned procedures/operations and out-patient services”.

Apologising for the “difficult decision” the trust explained the move: “As more people require care for COVID-19, it’s essential for us to free up vital clinical staff to support areas of our hospitals that need it most during this challenging time.”

Although they described the cancellation of non-urgent care as “temporary”, the Royal Free said they could not advise when these appointments will be rescheduled.

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London is seeing a surge in coronavirus cases, with the capital and much of the South East of England placed in strict Tier 4 measures in an effort not to overwhelm the NHS.

The new strain of the virus, which is now dominant in the capital, is more infectious but is not thought to be more dangerous than the previous variant.

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Barts Health, London’s largest NHS Trust, have also announced a move “into a ‘high pressure’ phrase”, with “some routine procedures” deferred.

In a statement, the trust said it was necessary “to help... manage the high number of patients” and “increase the number of critical care and general beds available”.

However, they noted: “This is not a blanket postponement and does not affect our cancer patients.”

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Cancer patients and most scans will also continue at the Royal Free hospital, with patients told they should expect their appointments to go ahead as usual unless they are told otherwise.

Speaking to LBC on Sunday, Mayor Sadiq Khan made a plea to Londoner’s to “follow the rules”.

“We have as many people with Covid now as we did at the peak in April,” he explained.

"Let's pull together," he added, "follow the rules, and let's not overwhelm the NHS."

LBC has contacted NHS London for comment.