Patient safety concerns as planned surgery falls by 80% in England

14th July 2020 Clinical Negligence

Recent figures released by NHS England show a concerning decrease in use of NHS services in May compared to the same month in 2019 (BBC).

According to figures released last week, non-emergency surgery, including cancer and heart operations, fell from 296,000 in May 2019 to 55,000 in May this year. The amount of surgeries performed were higher than the figures in April 2020, where 41,000 planned procedures took place, but there is still a dramatic difference when comparing monthly figures between 2019 and 2020.

This is following reports in early June 2020 that an estimated 28,000 procedures for people with long-term heart conditions have been delayed in England since the outbreak of coronavirus in the UK. In addition, it was also reported at that time that around 2.4 million people in the UK were waiting for cancer screening, treatment or tests, as a result of disruption to the NHS during the previous 10 weeks, according to Cancer Research UK.

The figures on A&E attendances in June 2020 were also released. These showed there were 1.4 million A&E attendances in June 2020 compared with 2.1 million in June 2019.

Of course, this is due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the additional strain placed on the NHS. The statistics show the dramatic difference in the use of the health service due to coronavirus and the concern is that other patients are not seeking or receiving the treatment they require, potentially worsening their condition and jeopardising prospective recovery. As clinical negligence solicitors, we regularly see how delayed treatment wrecks lives.

Although guidance to begin re-opening services for more non-urgent care was issued to trusts in mid-May 2020, patients are concerned about going back to hospital. Trusts are concerned about becoming overwhelmed and complying with the social distancing restrictions to which they must now adhere.

The concern in respect of these figures is that people who need treatment are not attending hospital and trusts are not doing enough to make patients feel safe to return. Whilst an NHS spokesperson noted overall waiting times for Covid-19 tests have fallen, there is a danger that many lives will be lost due delayed and cancelled treatment in other areas. With that in mind it is imperative that a safe way of delivering healthcare services to anyone who needs them is found as soon as possible.

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Nicholas Young is a Senior Associate Solicitor located in Manchesterin our Clinical Negligence department

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