A study published in the British Journal of Anaesthesia has found that, in 2020, hospitals in England & Wales carried out 1.5 million fewer surgical procedures in 2020 by comparison to average figures over the previous 4 years, a drop of more than a third.
The effect of the Covid-19 pandemic, which resulted in the postponement of planned, non-urgent surgery in April and again in December 2020 had a significant effect, but there was also a 13.4% reduction in the number of emergency surgical procedures.
Researchers are concerned at the long-term effects on patients whilst hospitals attempt to resolve the backlog in elective surgeries, which is likely to take several years even with significant additional investment by the government. The study commented "Delays in the diagnosis and the surgical management of cancer will undoubtedly lead to an increase in cancer-related mortality."
Although the NHS disputes the way in which the study interpreted the data collected, it continues to encourage patients to access services when required, as normal.
It is likely that care for patients with serious conditions other than cancer, such as diseases affecting the heart, lungs and other organs, will also be affected. Researchers also believe that patients' mental health is likely to deteriorate whilst they remain on waiting lists.
Delays in diagnosis and treatment could lead to an increase in claims against GP surgeries, hospitals and other healthcare providers. In addition, as clinical staff work harder to clear the backlogs, pressure and the potential for mistakes in care will also increase.
Clinical negligence claims are frequently complex, and it is important that anyone considering such a claim seeks advice at the earliest opportunity. For more information on how to make a claim, click here.
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*This article is provided for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or other professional advice.