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Number of people waiting for NHS treatment could double to 10 million due to pandemic

Published on 10/06/20 at 12:45pm
Photo by Francis Tyers

The backlog of people waiting for treatment on the NHS could reach as high as 10 million people by Christmas due to the coronavirus pandemic potentially creating a huge backlog of treatments and services.

Before the pandemic, the number of people waiting to have procedures like a hernia repair, hip or knee replacement or cataract removal reached 4.4 million, falling to 4.2 during March due to fewer referrals from GPs.

The NHS Confederation stated that the waiting list will likely reach 9.8 million people by the end of the year due to staff shortages, as well as hospitals having to cap the amount of people they care for because of a lack of resources that has been used up during the pandemic.

If the coronavirus has a significant second wave this number could reach 10.8 million, while if the COVID-19 cases stay relatively stable it could be as low as 8.1 million.

Jonathan Ashworth, the Shadow Health Secretary, said: “Ministers need to take heed of these warnings from NHS leaders now. It is inevitable that the Covid-19 pandemic will impact our health service in the months ahead but it is vital that ministers begin to address this backlog of delayed treatment and rising clinical need.”

Steve McIntosh, the Director of policy, campaigns and influencing at Macmillan Cancer Support, warned that action was needed for cancer patients to get the lifesaving care they need. He said: “Coronavirus has created a ticking timebomb of undiagnosed and untreated cancer in the UK, which is leaving many people living with cancer feeling desperately anxious and alone.

“We need urgent action to address the uncertainty of delayed cancer services and prevent coronavirus resulting in a serious spike in cancer deaths. All UK governments must rapidly restore cancer care and deal with the backlog in treatment whilst keeping staff and patients safe during the pandemic.”

Currently, the health services are operating at 60% capacity.

Conor Kavanagh

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