The situation was strained by the third wave of coronavirus, with the soaring number of infections in January and February, which forced the country to maintain a national lockdown, limiting medical services. Figures released by NHS England show that almost 390,000 people are currently waiting to be seen for non-urgent surgery, versus only 1,600 before Covid hit the UK.
Discussing the pressure facing hospitals, NHS England’s national medical director, Professor Stephen Powis, highlighted how the need to treat over 400,000 patients suffering from Covid during the past year would have “inevitably had an impact” on health services.
To help reduce the backlog, the UK government announced that £1 billion ($1.38 billion) will be used to rebuild services and get operations back up to speed in England and other parts of Britain.
Tim Mitchell, the vice president of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, reiterated the concerns laid out by Powis, saying, “hundreds of thousands of patients” are on waiting lists, with no clear timeline for getting their procedure.
Operations aren’t the only service that’s been impacted by the pandemic. Throughout 2020, doctors referred six million fewer people for hospital tests and treatment, compared with 2019, as they sought to free up the health service to fight the pandemic.
By the end of 2021, the NHS Confederation has warned that the current backlog could rise further to as many as 6.9 million people, even with the measures proposed by the government to help address the delays.