In Brief

Coronavirus NHS measures: which routine operations will be cancelled?

NHS England to postpone non-urgent procedures to clear beds for Covid-19 patients

All non-urgent operations in England and Scotland will be postponed to free up NHS beds for coronavirus patients, the government has announced.

According to The Times, NHS hospitals in England will halt all routine operations for at least three months from 15 April and send as many patients as possible home, with the aim of freeing up a third of the NHS’s 100,000 hospital beds.

Simon Stevens, the head of NHS England, said this week that “there is no health service in the world that would be able to cope if this virus let rip”.

He added that the NHS will be “suspending elective non-urgent surgery with an assumption that will be suspended everywhere from 15 April at the latest for at least three months, with a discretion for hospitals to take action earlier if they need it”.

The service will also discharge thousands of patients without full assessments to free up more space, refresh its staff training within a fortnight on how to care for patients with respiratory problems and bulk-buy space in private hospitals to increase bed numbers.

And NHS Scotland is “moving to an emergency footing for at least the next three months”, according to Scottish Health Secretary Jeane Freeman. It is postponing all non-urgent elective care. 

The Guardian reports that the moves are intended to “help the already overstretched health service manage the ‘intense pressure’ that the growing epidemic will put on it”.

The paper reports that the operations likely to be put on hold will include cataract removal, hernia repair and hip or knee replacements. Cancer operations will continue to go ahead, the NHS clarified.

The move has been welcomed by experts, with Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, stating: “This is sensible. Trusts need to increase bed capacity to deal with the added pressures of coronavirus.

“Postponing elective operations in this way will free up beds, space and staff to support this effort, strengthening their ability to provide critical care. While this will be disappointing for those waiting for treatment, it is clearly a necessary move.”

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