OVER ten million will be stuck on NHS waiting lists by the end of the year, health bosses warn.
Almost one in five patients in England will be affected by soaring backlogs for routine ops as hospitals struggle to cope with Covid – more than double current lists.
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It could see sick Brits suffering “mammoth” waits for some non-urgent procedures, such as hip surgery and cataract removal.
NHS Confederation, which represents health and care leaders, warns hospitals "face an uphill battle" to treat Covid patients, while maintaining effective cancer, stroke and heart disease services.
It estimates waiting lists for non-critical ops will hit ten million by Christmas – up from 4.2 million before the crisis.
But without a vaccine or treatment on the horizon, health bosses fear it could reach 11 million.
The report warns services will continue to operate at reduced capacity for the foreseeable future – around 60 per cent of normal – to allow for social distancing and infection control.
Writing to Boris Johnson, NHS Confed boss Niall Dickson warns it will not be possible to simply "switch on" delayed health care.
He said: “The NHS wants to get back to providing these vital services – the virus has inflicted pain and suffering throughout the UK, but we also know the measures to combat it have come at a terrible cost to those who have not been able to access the care, treatment and support they need and to many whose conditions have gone undiagnosed.
"There is a real determination to rise to this challenge, but it will need extra funding and capacity, not least in rehabilitation and recovery services in the community where so much of the coming demand will be felt."
The report comes after the Society for Acute Medicine warned earlier this week the NHS faces a "winter like no other" as it copes both with seasonal flu and coronavirus.
Commenting on the growing waiting lists, Professor Derek Alderson, President of the Royal College of Surgeons, said: “Covid-19 is not going to disappear soon, and it is likely waiting lists will increase as we continue to deal with this pandemic.
“Therefore it is important we look at how we can safely restart surgery to combat a possible mammoth waiting list in a few months.
“To safely restart surgery, every part of the country needs to identify ‘Covid-light’ operating theatres that the NHS can use, and hold on to the additional independent sector capacity.
“We must rebuild confidence among the public that the NHS really is ‘open for business’ again.”
Nursing bosses warn the “legacy of this pandemic is yet to dawn” as officials attempt to reboot key services.
A Royal College of Nursing spokesperson said: “For burnt-out nursing staff on short-staffed wards, care homes or clinics, it will be a struggle to restart services.”
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