Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh statement in response to increased NHS waiting lists

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11 Jun 2020

Responding to the news that NHS waiting lists could reach 10 million by the end of 2020, Professor Michael Griffin OBE, President of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh said:

“We have been seeking to highlight for some time the issue of the burgeoning backlog of cases, and that delays in treatment and diagnoses will lead to waves of further, indirect, casualties of the pandemic. Unfortunately, the challenges in dealing with this backlog are legion.

“The NHS’s workforce is exhausted and traumatised, many will suffer burnout and mental health issues as the tensions of the pandemic response ease.

“Carrying out surgical operations in full, bulky PPE is slower and requires more time to prepare and remove, reducing the number of operations in the day. The availability and quality of PPE must also be guaranteed .Theatre time is reduced for neccessary cleaning and disinfection.

“Recent research from Covidsurg has highlighted the increased mortality from Covid-19 by approximately 30%, making rapid, expedient and universal testing of every patient and NHS staff member an absolute pre-requisite for non-emergency operations to restart in order to control infections. There have been well documented outbreaks in hospitals around the UK as happened in Weston General hospital necessitating closure to new patients. We could see that repeated.

“As the weather turns in the autumn the usual ‘winter pressures’ will also begin to tell. This has a two-fold effect. Firstly, it will require vigilance to prevent a second wave of Covid-19 in virus-friendly conditions. Secondly, the standard increase in seasonal influenza and the common cold will lead to many patients presenting with respiratory symptoms. These patients will have to be treated as potential Covid cases until testing can prove otherwise, adding to the burdens on both staff and testing infrastructure.

“All of these factors will reduce and downgrade the capacity of the NHS to deal with the usual workload of approximately 700,000 surgical operations a week. Dealing with an additional 10 million cases on top of that standard workload will require a Herculean effort similar or greater to that which dealt with the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic. Ministers must be aware that the after-effects of the Covid-19 pandemic may well be as far-reaching and as deadly as the virus itself and invest the requisite political will and resources into our NHS to cope accordingly.“


About The Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh

RCSEd was first incorporated as the Barber Surgeons of Edinburgh in 1505, and is based in Edinburgh and Birmingham. It is one of the oldest surgical corporations in the world with a worldwide membership of almost 29,000. The majority of our members practice across the UK, with 11,000 professionals based in England and Wales. The College also has a significant global presence with 11,000 members in over 100 countries worldwide. 

The College promotes the highest standards of surgical and dental practice through education, training and examinations, its liaison with external medical bodies and representation of the modern surgical and dental workforce. It is also home to the UK’s only Faculty of Surgical Trainers, open to all those with an interest in surgical training regardless of College affiliation.

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Issued by Beattie on behalf of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh. For further information, please contact the team on or Emma Bain on 07730 415 096.   

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