Surgeons Call for a ‘New Deal for Surgery’ to Reduce ‘Colossal’ Backlog

Dawn O'Shea

May 28, 2021

The Royal College of Surgeons of England (RCSE) has called on the government to agree a New Deal for Surgery and commit an additional £1 billion for surgery every year for the next five years.

The College is also urging every Integrated Care System (ICS) in England to identify at least one surgical hub where planned surgery can continue safely if the country is hit again by COVID-19, a new variant or a severe seasonal flu/winter pressures.    

New opinion polling, undertaken by Savanta ComRes on behalf of the College, shows broad public support for the College’s proposals: 

Three quarters (78%) of UK adults agree that the government should continue to give the NHS £1 billion extra funding each year for the next six years to tackle long hospital waiting times. 

Approaching six in 10 (58%) say that if they needed an operation, it would be important for them to be treated in a surgical hub hospital - defined as a hospital which is not treating COVID-19 patients. 

Seven in 10 (73%) say that if they needed an operation, they would be willing to travel to a surgical hub if it was not their nearest local hospital.

The College’s New Deal report makes 12 recommendations to government, including both long and short-term measures designed to improve the future sustainability of surgical services.

The report details the devastating impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on surgical services in England. Latest figures show the largest ever recorded NHS waiting list in England of 4.95 million people, including 436,127 patients waiting over a year. 

Professor Neil Mortensen, President of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, said: “We need government support for a New Deal for Surgery to reduce the colossal backlog in elective surgery and to help the NHS weather future pandemics. Surgery must be available on the NHS all year-round, not stop and start. If a dangerous new variant of COVID-19 takes hold, or another bad flu arrives in the autumn, we cannot allow surgery to grind to a halt again or waiting lists will become insurmountable.” 

He said: “The surgical hub model is the best way we can keep treating people who need operations, regardless of future pandemics. But it requires being open to doing things differently. Throughout the pandemic, staff have gone wherever they are most needed, working flexibly and collaboratively to put patients’ interests first. Our patients have adapted too, with many outpatient consultations happening virtually, by telephone or video. Now we need politicians to be open to change too. They must accept that the services available at their nearest hospital may not be the same as before. Their voters are willing to travel to a surgical hub for an operation, even if it is not the nearest local hospital. Today we are explaining why it’s key the government and MPs embrace change and commit to longer term investment in surgery.”

The report calls on the government to expand the number of hospital beds in England from 2.5 to 4.7 per 1,000 population and increase the number of hospital doctors from 2.8 to 3.5 per 1,000 population. 

This article originally appeared on Univadis, part of the Medscape Professional Network.

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