It will take up to five years for some British hospitals to tackle the backlog of patient care caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, a British health association said Sunday.
NHS (National Health Service) Providers, which represents NHS trusts, said the coronavirus crisis has resulted in huge shortfalls in cancer care, mental health services and planned surgery.
The hospitals in England worst affected by the crisis are between three and five years away from returning to pre-COVID levels, said the association.
According to NHS Providers, COVID-19 has resulted in the biggest backlog of care in England for 20 years, which it described as a “very significant problem”.
“This isn’t just about money — it’s actually about how the NHS is going to need to transform the way it provides care,” NHS Providers’ chief executive Chris Hopson told Sky News.
The full size of the problem is unclear because many patients who might have been referred for treatment over the last 12 months have not been, because of the pandemic, he said.
The latest data from NHS England showed that 4.7 million people were waiting to start treatment at the end of February, which is the highest figure yet since records began in 2007.
Almost 400,000 patients had been waiting more than a year to start cancer treatment then as well — the highest monthly figure since December 2007.
Delays in care do not just refer to planned surgery and cancer treatment, but also mental health and community services, according to Sky News.
More than 32.6 million people have been given the first jab of the coronavirus vaccine, according to the latest official figures.
As England further eases its lockdown, all shops reopened from April 12 along with hairdressers, beauty salons and other close-contact services.
Restaurants and pubs were allowed to serve food and alcohol to customers sitting outdoors. Meanwhile, gyms, spas, zoos, theme parks, libraries and community centers can all open.
Experts have warned that despite progress in vaccine rollout, Britain is “still not out of the woods” amid concerns over new variants and the third wave of pandemic on the European continent.