The NHS will be inflicting pain, misery and risk of death on tens of thousands of patients if it again shuts down normal care when a second wave of Covid-19 hits, doctors’ and surgeons’ leaders are warning.
They are urging NHS bosses not to use the same sweeping closures of services that were introduced in March to help hospitals cope with the huge influx of patients seriously ill with Covid.
“The NHS must never again be a Covid-only service. There is a duty to the thousands of patients waiting in need and in pain to make sure they can be treated,” said Prof Neil Mortensen, president of the Royal College of Surgeons of England.null
The leader of Britain’s doctors warned that hospitals should not leave patients “stranded” by again suspending a wide range of diagnostic and treatment services.
“We cannot have a situation in which patients are unable to access diagnostic tests, clinic appointments and treatment which they urgently need and are simply left stranded,” said Dr Chaand Nagpaul, chair of council at the British Medical Association (BMA).
“If someone needs care – for example for cancer, heart trouble, a breathing condition or a neurological problem – they must get it when they need it.”
Their comments come amid growing fears about a second wave of infections and mounting concern that the widespread disruption to hospital care that began in March, and patients’ fears about going into hospital, led to thousands of patients dying avoidably of cancer and heart disease and will lead to further fatalities in the years ahead.
Unavailability of care, in tandem with patients’ reluctance to go into hospital, have been linked to the fact that in England 12,000 more peoplethan usual have died of illness not linked to Covid in recent months, such as heart attacks, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
One cancer expert has estimated that anywhere between 7,000 and 35,000 patients could die over the next year as a direct result of missing out on NHS care in recent months.
“The NHS had to stop almost all planned surgery at the beginning of the Covid crisis, and we just cannot let that happen again. Things will need to be done differently in the face of any further spike,” Mortensen told the Guardian.
Hospitals should set up more “Covid-lite” sites to enable surgeons to resume common operations such as hip and knee replacements and cataract removals, and make good use of the NHS’s £400m-a-month deal with private hospitals, Mortensen suggested. The NHS should also look at using the seven Nightingale hospitals it created early in the pandemic as extra capacity for non-Covid care, added Nagpaul.
Read full story at The Guardian