NHS Waiting Lists Could Lead to Thousands of Deaths
Cancer Research found that almost 3 in 10 cancer patients had their treatment disrupted when the NHS suspended much of its normal care to focus on Covid-19.
Overall 29% of people receiving cancer had a test, procedure or appointment delayed, cancelled or changed during the pandemic.
“Covid-19 hit the health system hard and cancer services suffered as a result”, said Michelle Mitchell, Cancer Research UK’s chief executive.
The pandemic has left cancer patients less positive about their NHS care with 60% of patients saying their care was “very good”. That figure among cancer patients used to be 84% before Covid-19.
The British Heart Foundation (BHF) fears that those needing treatment for heart attacks and stroke, diagnostic tests and potentially life-saving surgery could lose their lives while they wait.
The first year of Covid-19 saw 5,800 deaths from heart and circulatory conditions after the NHS services were suspended.
“Without immediate intervention, there is a risk that thousands of more people could die from heart and circulatory diseases, despite the NHS going above and beyond during the pandemic”, the BHF says.
The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) forecast that the number of people on the waiting list for all types of hospital treatment in England could top 15 million by 2025 – almost three times the current total of 5.3 million.
Max Warner, a research economist at the IFS said, “More than four million people were on the NHS waiting list even before the pandemic. Covid-19 has only made matters worse, as millions of people have missed out on treatment and millions more haven’t even been referred on the waiting list to begin with. There is a real risk that if the NHS cannot find effective ways to boost its capacity – a challenge at the best of times, let alone after a major pandemic – then much longer waiting lists will be with us for years to come”
The same staff who went above and beyond to care for patients seriously unwell with COVID-19 now face the task of addressing the backlog. NHS leaders have already warned that pushing too hard, too soon to start the recovery could backfire by leading staff to leave the service, worsening staff shortages.
MPs will examine levels of funding, capacity, organisation and leadership for addressing the current backlog for non-Covid health services, and concerns that these issues are likely to continue in the longer term. There will be a focus on elective surgery, emergency care, General Practice, mental health, and long-Covid.
Health and Social Care Committee Chair Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP said, “While additional funding will be critical, we also need to evaluate the way services are set up and organised in order to meet the demand for non-Covid care as well as treatment for conditions related to the pandemic, such as long-Covid.”