Daily Express

NHS faces waiting list of 7.2m after Covid crisis due to shortage of drugs


- By

Steph Spyro

THE NHS could face a waiting list of more than seven million patients due to the Covid-19 crisis.

Many hospitals will struggle to return to full capacity for routine operations because of supply problems, doctors warned.

Delays could pile up because of anaestheti­c drug shortages, it was said.

A number of operating theatres in the South-west are believed to be short of common anaestheti­cs following high demands in intensive units during the virus’s peak over Easter.

One doctor, who asked to remain anonymous, said: “If anything the situation has got worse in our hospitals.

“We are nowhere near a return to full capacity, and many other hospitals are in a similar situation.”

The Royal College of Anaestheti­sts has developed a strategy to restart planned surgeries. But it warned this will only be done once “sufficient anaestheti­c and critical care drug stocks have been secured”.


Medics have said resuming normal activity will be a major challenge for the NHS.

One doctor said: “In addition to anaestheti­c shortages in theatre, everything has to be done in PPE, and the PPE stocks are critically low.

“So we’re not sure if we can start operating again at full capacity or see patients in clinic at full capacity, because we don’t have the supply.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: “We are aware there is an increase in demand for a number of intensive care drugs and we are working with the pharmaceut­ical industry to make additional supplies available.” But doctors warned that some patients could die as a consequenc­e of not having their planned operations.

A study by NHS healthcare provider Medefer showed that because of delays caused by Covid-19, 1.3 million people have been added to waiting lists to see specialist­s for conditions such as cancer and heart problems.

This is on top of the backlog of 4.4 million people from February.

It is expected the total number of people waiting for NHS services

Empty beds... the Nightingal­e North East Hospital has just opened in Sunderland

could reach 7.2 million by the end of September, with one in eight people waiting for treatment.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, chairman of the British Medical Associatio­n, said the figures highlighte­d doctors’ concerns that non-coronaviru­s conditions would be neglected.

He said: “Many ill patients are not getting the care they so desperatel­y need now and, crucially, are risking their conditions getting worse, and with some maybe even dying as a result.” Professor Derek

Alderson, of the

Royal College of Surgeons of England, added: “Those who four weeks ago were able to wait for a month, they can’t wait another month and then another month.”

There have been calls for the Nightingal­e hospitals to treat nonvirus patients to help get the health service back to full capacity.

The Nightingal­e at London’s ExCel Centre is set to close this

week after treating just 54 patients, despite having capacity for 4,000. The other Nightingal­es that were opened to stop hospitals being overwhelme­d will also be wound down, as demand from Covid-19 decreases.

Reports have suggested the field hospitals could be re-purposed to treat non-coronaviru­s patients to help ease the mounting backlog of cancelled operations.

Only last week, the new Nightingal­e North East Hospital was officially opened in Sunderland. The hospital has 460 beds and will have equipment to support patients who require ventilatio­n, it was said.

A source said: “Thankfully, the spare capacity has not been needed at this juncture.

“We are not out of the woods yet but people are beginning to think about whether we might be able to start doing some of the things that we have had to stop doing and clearing some of the backlog.”

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