NHS won’t return to normal for four years – as waiting times spiral and beds closed


PATIENTS receiving treatment on the NHS will face longer waiting times for procedures as hospitals continue to fight the coronavirus pandemic.

Experts have now warned that the health service won’t return to normal for more than four years.

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NHS staff have been working round the clock for the last few months

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NHS staff have been working round the clock for the last few monthsCredit: PA:Press Association

So far in the UK over 43,000 people have died from the coronavirus and the pandemic has had a significant impact on NHS services.

Glen Burley, the group chief executive of Warwick Hospital, George Eliot hospital in Nuneaton and County hospital in Hereford has now said that the NHS will only be able to provide 40 per cent of the care that it had previously delivered.

This he claims is due to a drive from hospitals to become infection free.

This means many have closed beds as a result.

 

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Many patients have already seen delays in treatment due to the pandemic.

Earlier this month it was revealed that thousands of Brits are at risk of bowel cancer after one million screening tests were missed because of the pandemic.

Speaking to The Observer Mr Burley said progress across the NHS will be very slow.

“It could be four years before waiting times get back to pre-Covid levels. We could see that. It’s certainly years, not months.”

It’s not going to disappear overnight. Restoring normal services may be the biggest challenge the NHS has ever faced

Sir Jim Mackey chief executive of Northumbria Healthcare trust

It is thought that interruptions to treatments could mean waiting lists more than double.

At present there are 4.2 million on hospital waiting lists for planned operations and it is estimated that this could soar to 10 million by December.

One chief executive who helps run seven hospitals in the north east said the national backlog means it could take several years to get on top of.

Sir Jim Mackey said: “It’s not going to disappear overnight. Restoring normal services may be the biggest challenge the NHS has ever faced.”

He said that it’s one of the most complicated things he has ever dealt with during his 30 years within the NHS.

This is while Niall Dickson who is the chief executive of the NHS Confederation said neither the government nor the public understand the “mammoth challenge the NHS faces”.

He added that many services are reopening but with “one hand tied behind their back”.

This he said is due to social distancing measures and the increased need of PPE.

Despite the backlog, hospitals are doing their best to accommodate patients and Mr Burley said some surgeons will have to work six days a week to tackle the backlog.

He said he hopes to boost the capacity of the George Eliot hospital by providing 50 to 60 extra beds.

Some hospitals have started to implement “hot and cold sites”.

This means that emergency patients and Covid patients will be treated at one site, with planned procedures being carried out at another.

It’s not just the NHS that is feeling the pinch.

Some trusts such as Royal Wolverhampton are taking advantage of the £400 million per month deal with the private sector.

This fund is in place so that people awaiting breast cancer surgery will be sent to private hospitals run by Nuffield Health.

However they are only currently able to operate at 60 to 80 per cent capacity due to clean procedures and social distancing measures that need to be adhered to.

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