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URGENT operations for children have been cancelled due to the pressures of the Covid-19 pandemic’s third wave, it was revealed today.
At least dozens, and potentially hundreds, of urgent pediatric operations have been cancelled over recent months, the Health Service Journal (HSJ) reported.
The procedures include fracture repairs and biopsies to spot cancer. They were marked either as Priority 2, which are meant to be completed within a month, or Priority 3, which are meant to be completed within 12 weeks, the HSJ said.
Hospitals have been under intense pressure this winter, with the number of Covid-19 inpatients having been as high as 35,000 in England alone. During the first wave, Covid-19 admissions to English hospitals peaked at 18,970 on April 12.
NHS Providers chief executive Chris Hopson warned that it could take months for the health service to return to normal, with workers now facing exhaustion.
A record total of almost 4.5 million people in England were waiting for routine operations such as joint replacements or cataract surgery by December.
It included nearly 200,000 people who had been on waiting lists for more than a year.
Labour’s shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth branded the situation “deeply alarming.”
“Years of cutbacks, understaffing and underfunding left our NHS vulnerable heading into this pandemic and now swathes of vital non-Covid care are cancelled,” he said.
“Children must not become the forgotten victims of this crisis. Child health and well-being must always be a priority.”
Keep Our NHS Public co-chairman Dr John Puntis pointed to successive Tory governments’ refusal to properly fund the NHS and prepare for an epidemic, and PM Boris Johnson’s failure to adopt a zero-Covid strategy since the outbreak began.
“When government ministers claim the NHS has been protected and has managed, it ignores the massive impact that the pandemic has had on non-Covid services,” he said.
“Many other patients, including those adults with cancer or waiting for knee or hip operations to transform their quality of life, have also lost out.
“Not only do we have a devastatingly high number of deaths from Covid — the responsibility for which lies with government — there is a huge additional toll on mental and physical health in the population at large.
“There must be an urgent public inquiry to learn lessons, implement changes and reduce further deaths and damage to health and well-being.”
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