LONDON - Hospital chiefs have warned it will take up to four years for the NHS to fully recover from the coronavirus pandemic, according to a report. One official is quoted by The Observer newspaper as saying some hospitals will only be able to provide 40% of the care previously delivered once the NHS reopens. Patients will face lengthy waits for operations and tests as the push by hospitals to remain infection-free brings side-effects such as more closed beds, the paper says. Surgeons will also be carrying out fewer procedures than before the outbreak because of their need to wear more protective clothing.
The warnings come as hospitals face pressure to resume services for patients with conditions such as cancer, joint problems and obesity.
‘It could be four years before waiting times get back to pre-Covid levels. We could see that. It’s certainly years, not months,’ Glen Burley, chief executive of Warwick hospital, George Eliot hospital in Nuneaton and Hereford’s County hospital told the paper. Sir Jim Mackey, chief executive of Northumbria Healthcare trust, which runs seven hospitals in the north-east, said: ‘Nationally, because there’s a big backlog already, that could take several years to get on top of. It’s not going to disappear overnight. Restoring normal services may be the biggest challenge the NHS has ever faced.’ Niall Dickson, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, which represents health service trusts, said hospitals would not be able to consistently stay within the NHS’s supposed maximum delay period of 18 weeks to deliver treatment to patients for the foreseeable future.(FA)