NHS Staff Deliver Two Million Routine Procedures Despite Busiest Period Of Pandemic, With The East Of England Treating Nearly 198,000 People For Non-Covid Reasons Throughout January And February

NHS staff completed almost two million operations and other elective care in January and February while also providing hospital treatment for almost 140,000 Covid patients.

Around two in five of all patients who have received hospital treatment for Covid were admitted in the first two months of the year.

At the height of the second wave of Covid, hospitals in the East of England completed 97,640 and 100,258 patient pathways in January 2021 and February 2021 respectively.

In January this was an increase of 41,101 (73%), and in February an increase of 43,719 (77%), on procedures completed at the peak of the first wave in April 2020. This is despite having substantially more Covid inpatients and higher pressure on critical care than during the first wave, as well as hospitals having additional infection prevention and control (IPC) and social distancing measures in place for staff and patients.

New data published today shows 1.9million electives procedures or support for patients took place in the face of the winter wave of coronavirus and there were 2.6 million A&E visits over the same period.

In the east of England 408,559 people attended A&E and minor injury units from January to March 2021.

February saw 22,000 people across England begin treatment for cancer, in line with the same month last year, and 174,000 people were referred for cancer checks, twice as many as during the peak of the first wave in April 2020.

Average waiting times for non-urgent surgery have also recovered from last summer, falling by more than 38% since July. In February, the east of England average waiting time for referral to treatment was just over 13 weeks.

And emergency care, including A&E waiting times and ambulance responses times, have improved for the most urgent cases. Nationally, the time taken for ambulances to reach category one patients, whose condition is classed as life-threatening, dropped to six minutes and 47 seconds against the seven-minute target.

A spokesperson for the NHS in the East of England said: “Although people needing the most urgent procedures have continued to be treated, the pandemic and the treatment of thousands of Covid patients in the region has had an inevitable impact on the NHS.

“It is thanks to the dedication of NHS staff that in the face of this winter’s Covid wave, acute hospitals in the East of England treated over three quarters more people with non-Covid conditions in February this year than they did last April.”

Professor Stephen Powis, the national medical director for the NHS in England, said: “Treating 400,000 patients with Covid-19 over the course of the last year has inevitably had an impact on the NHS but it is a testament to the hard work and dedication of staff that they managed to deliver almost two million ops and procedures in the face of the winter wave and improve waiting times for them along with A&E and ambulance service.

“It is good to see that people kept coming forward for cancer checks and other care with 22,000 who needed it starting treatment.

“And the NHS recently announced a £1bn elective recovery fund which will be used to accelerate the restoration of services and treat as many people as possible, so we continue to urge anyone who needs the NHS to come forward so we can help you.”

The £1bn fund will help trusts to restore operations and other services, with every area of the country is being asked to maximise their capacity to provide care for as many urgent and non-urgent patients as possible.

Average waiting times for a diagnostic test in February reached their lowest since the pandemic began more than a year ago; in the east of England region 170,486 diagnostic tests and procedures took place in February 2021 alone.

Across England, patients are now waiting on average three weeks for tests including MRIs, ultrasounds and colonoscopies. That compares to a peak of 8.6 weeks in May 2020.

The number of people waiting more than six weeks for a diagnostic test fell by 30% since last May nationally.

Cancer services also recovered in February across the country, with 90.3% of patients referred for urgent checks seen by a specialist within two weeks, an increase from 83.4% in January.

Between February 2020 and February this year, almost 300,000 people have started treatment for cancer in England. Last month, 94.7% of those began treatment within 31 days.