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RCSEd Statement on COVID-19 second wave and the importance of continuation of essential surgeries


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21 Sep 2020

The message today from Professor Chris Whitty, the Chief Medical Officer and Sir Patrick Valance, the Government’s Chief Scientific Advisor, was powerful, urgent and timely. It is clear that a second wave of Covid-19 is upon us and could be devastating unless swift, mitigating action is taken by government, the NHS and the general public.

As the largest of the UK’s four Medical Royal College’s dedicated to surgery and perioperative care we stand convinced that a second wave of Covid would not only bring unnecessary deaths and suffering to individuals and families affected by Covid but could potentially overwhelm the NHS’s capacity when combined with winter pressures and the need to maintain non-Covid care.

We know that cancer deaths alone will rise this year by as much as 20% because of delayed and cancelled treatment from the first lockdown. It is imperative that the NHS is able to continue to offer essential surgeries and other urgent non-Covid care, including diagnostic procedures. As the mortality risk for patients undergoing surgery contracting Covid over the perioperative period is up to 30%, the importance of infection control and Covid-free hospital spaces cannot be understated. It is vital that a secure plan is put in place and implemented for a more strategic deployment of testing to healthcare professionals to ensure this is done. If the government fails in this the result could be thousands of additional deaths which are caused by the pandemic even if that person never contracts Covid-19.

We all have our responsibilities in seeking to overcome this pandemic – whether as individual citizens, as healthcare professionals or as Government. We urge, in the strongest possible terms, that individual citizens should obey the rules with an abundance of caution, and that the government and the NHS make plans now to ensure the continuation of all essential non-Covid care alongside the second wave of the pandemic.


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