Cancer Operations to be Postponed due to Coronavirus, UK Health Chief Warns

LIVERPOOL, UNITED KINGDOM - JANUARY 05: Ambulances line up as a government sponsored electronic sign gives out coronavirus pandemic information to visitors and staff at the Aintree University Hospital on January 05, 2021 in Liverpool, United Kingdom. British Prime Minister Johnson made a national television address on Monday evening announcing …
Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) may be forced to cancel cancer operations in response to the Chinese coronavirus, a top medical chief in the UK has warned.

The president of the Royal College of Surgeons, Professor Neil Mortensen said on Tuesday that NHS facilities across the country have already begun to suspend ‘low-priority’ medical procedures such as knee and hip replacements, but warned that in the coming weeks more serious procedures may have to be cancelled as well.

“We’re now concerned about operations like cancer surgeries being cancelled or postponed because there just isn’t the capacity to be able to manage them,” Prof Mortensen told Times Radio.

“I think if you have a delayed operation for cancer that may have an effect,” he noted.

“If you come in from a road traffic accident and you’re seriously ill, and you need to go to an intensive care unit afterwards and there is no intensive care unit, that’s going to have serious consequences,” he warned.

“My colleagues in London doing ward rounds, for example, report that there are problems with staff numbers on the wards, staff numbers in theatres. And then of course if you need to go to the intensive care unit, if the intensive care unit is full of Covid patients, there’s no room for you,” Mortensen said

The Professor of Colorectal Surgery at the University of Oxford Medical School went on to predict that it will likely be until the summer before NHS facilities will be able to return to a semblance of normality, after clearing the massive backlog of procedures.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that the country would be heading back into a strict national lockdown, claiming that hospitals across England are some 40 per cent busier than at the peak of the first wave of the virus in April, with some 27,000 people presently being treated in hospital.

In November, the NHS revealed that the number of people waiting over one year to receive treatment reached its highest levels in 12 years as a result of the socialised healthcare system prioritising coronavirus patients.

Between April and September of last year, there were at least 4.4 million fewer cancer screening scans performed than during the same time period last year.

A report from the healthcare analysis firm Dr Foster revealed in October that the government’s message of “Stay Home, Protect the NHS, Save Lives” scared away patients from seeking medical attention, resulting in a fall of up to 90 per cent in non-coronavirus admissions during the height of the pandemic.

The report found that prostate cancer admissions fell by some 64 per cent, bowel cancer by 39 per cent, and cervical and breast cancer admissions fell by almost one-third.

The director of strategy and analytics for Dr Foster, Tom Binstead warned that “the long-term effects of the pandemic are likely to be far-reaching, with a future spike in demand possible due to missed diagnoses and postponed procedures.”

“Cancers may now require a greater level of treatment, or even be untreatable, if they have been left undetected or untreated as a result of the crisis,” he added.

Despite the supposed strain on the NHS, the Nightingale field hospitals, which were constructed during the outset of the coronavirus pandemic, have remained largely empty.

Department of Health statistics showed last week that only 28 coronavirus patients are in Nightengale hospitals, all of whom are in the field hospital in Exeter.

The government constructed the seven hospitals at a cost of £220 million, and yet only 249 Covid patients have been admitted to Nightengale hospitals since April.

“If this was really about NHS beds, then why on earth have we spent a couple of hundred million quid on Nightingale hospitals that now are not even there to be used,” Brexit leader Nigel Farage questioned on Monday.

Follow Kurt Zindulka on Twitter here: @KurtZindulka


Please let us know if you're having issues with commenting.