Thousands more routine operations get axed: Top hospitals cancel surgery as doctors battle to cope with soaring Covid-19 cases
- NHS trusts in London, Essex and Kent have said that they were under pressure
- Some forced to divert ambulances and cancel non-urgent surgery to free beds
- Thousands of patients are expected to be affected by the latest hospital set back
Several major hospitals began cancelling routine surgery last night as they struggled to cope with rising admissions for Covid-19.
NHS trusts in London, Essex and Kent said they were under pressure, with some forced to divert ambulances and cancel non-urgent surgery to free up beds.
Thousands of patients are expected to be affected. Yesterday a record 35,383 new coronavirus cases were reported in the UK, with the number of patients in hospital with the infection at its highest since mid-April.
There have been 160,878 new infections over the past seven days – up 41 per cent on the previous week.
However, yesterday’s dramatic leap was partly due to an IT glitch leading to a delay in reporting 11,000 positive tests in Wales. London is currently the worst-hit region, followed by the South East.
Many non-urgent operations are also now being postponed at all four of Kent’s acute NHS trusts. Mid and South Essex NHS Foundation Trust said non-urgent operations had been postponed at Southend (pictured), Basildon and Chelmsford
The capital has a seven-day infection rate of 319.3 per 100,000 population, compared to 199 a week ago. Pictured: Whipps Cross Hospital in east London
More than four million patients missed out on potentially life-saving scans during lockdown, figures reveal.
In England, at least 4.4million fewer scans were performed between April and September compared with a year ago.
The NHS statistics, analysed by the BBC, highlight the devastating consequences of the pandemic on treatment for other conditions. One in seven now waits more than three months for a scan as the NHS attempts to clear the backlog. The delays mean thousands are being diagnosed with cancer at a later stage, harming their chances of survival.
The overall waiting list in England for one of the 15 main diagnostic tests rose by 250,000 to 1.27million between April and September. This includes CT scans, ultrasounds and MRI scans. Patients face the longest waits in regions that have suffered the most from Covid.
In the North West, one in three was waiting more than six weeks in October, compared with one in five in the South East.
Jody Moffatt, head of early diagnosis for Cancer Research UK, said: ‘There is a cohort of patients out there that have not been diagnosed yet – and who knows what state they will be in when they are.’
NHS England said CT scans were now back to the same levels as last year, and MRI scans are back to 88 per cent of the number carried out last October.
A spokesman said: ‘The NHS message to the public remains the same. Come forward and get the care you need.’
The capital has a seven-day infection rate of 319.3 per 100,000 population, compared to 199 a week ago.
Public Health England said cases were increasing in all age groups and in every region except Yorkshire and the Humber, with particularly sharp spikes in London, the South East and the East of England.
Overall, NHS bed occupancy is actually lower than this time last year, but officials insist these statistics cannot be compared because of the social distancing measures now required in NHS hospitals.
They also mask regional hotspots where local hospitals are struggling to manage.
Dr Yvonne Doyle, of Public Health England, said: ‘Case and hospital admission rates have increased across most of the country and the number of new daily infections are rising.
‘This is deeply concerning and should make us all consider our plans to see loved ones at Christmas.’
There are 2,543 virus patients in London’s hospitals, up from 1,787 the previous week.
As a result, some hospitals in London, Essex and Kent have now begun cancelling treatment for other conditions.
This will add to the misery and pain of thousands of patients stuck in the longest NHS treatment backlog for more than a decade.
Figures show 162,000 patients have been waiting more than a year for routine surgery and 4.44million are waiting for NHS care.
Professor Stephen Powis, of NHS England, has previously said operations must not be cancelled this winter unless ‘absolutely unavoidable’.
However, Barts Health Trust, which runs five London hospitals, said it had been forced to divert ambulances and cancel operations in the past week.
Many non-urgent operations are also now being postponed at all four of Kent’s acute NHS trusts. Mid and South Essex NHS Foundation Trust said non-urgent operations had been postponed at Southend, Basildon and Chelmsford.
Three health boards in Wales have also suspended non-urgent hospital care. Meanwhile, official figures yesterday showed that coronavirus was the main cause of death in England and Wales last month for the first time since the spring.
Nearly one in five deaths in England – 18.1 per cent – and 21.6 per cent in Wales were said by doctors to have involved the virus during November.
But across the whole of 2020 Covid-19 remains the second most common cause of deaths, behind dementia in England and heart disease in Wales.
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