Backlog of procedures in England could cost NHS £3bn to work through after crisis

Operations for hip and knee replacements, cataracts and hernias have all been delayed to make beds available to cope with coronavirus cases. Photograph: Mark Thomas/REX/Shutterstock/Mark Thomas/Rex/Shutterstock

Doctors have postponed more than 2m operations after non-emergency surgery was cancelled for at least three months to free up beds for coronavirus patients.

The mounting backlog of procedures could cost the NHS £3bn to work through and may require many of the 20,000 doctors and nurses who have returned to the health service to stay on once the Covid-19 crisis has been brought under control.

According to NHS England, postponing the planned operations, which typically cost £1bn per month, has released 12,000 beds for patients who have fallen ill after contracting the virus.

“We are probably only delivering around on- third of our usual surgical activity and that’s nearly all for emergency and very urgent surgery. In the short term, we have to do a really major catch-up exercise to stop this backlog causing harm,” Prof Derek Alderson, the president of the Royal College of Surgeons in England, told the Sunday People.

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