Easing restrictions too soon would 'undoubtedly' impact hospitals' ability to clear waiting list backlogs, says Leeds GP

Easing restrictions too soon could threaten hospitals’ ability to tackle the huge backlog in patients waiting for treatment, according to a leading Leeds GP.

By Joanna Wardill
Monday, 14th June 2021, 11:45 am
Updated Tuesday, 15th June 2021, 1:07 pm

NHS England statistics published last week showed there were 5,122,017 people waiting for hospital treatment in England in April - the highest figure since records began in 2007.

As previously reported in the Yorkshire Evening Post, Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust has also seen record highs in the numbers of people on its waiting lists, along with prolonged delays reported in community healthcare.

Joining the calls for the Government to delay its planned June 21 date for lifting all restrictions, Dr Richard Vautrey Leeds GP and chairman of the British Medical Association’s General Practioners’ Commitee, said rising infection rates could significantly impact NHS services.

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Dr Richard Vautrey, Leeds GP and chairman of the British Medical Association's General Practitioners' Committee. Picture: Simon Hulme

Dr Vautrey said: “GPs have seen large numbers of people contacting us with serious concerns about prolonged waits that they have had for hospital procedures and they are wanting help because of that long wait.

“We want our patients to be able to access the care that they have been waiting for, which is long overdue.”

Rising infection rates would “undoubtedly lead to further delay to patients accessing treatments they have been waiting for”, he said.

“We have around five million [people] on waiting lists across the country.

“We are seeing large numbers of people in Leeds that have been waiting a number of months for procedures they really do need to be done and the only way we can do that is if our hospitals have capacity - not just for the day to day work they would be doing day in, day out but also working on the backlog as well.

“There’s a real need to have that extra capacity.

“That’s simply not possible if hospitals are dealing with a rise in the patients being admitted with Covid infections,” he added.

The British Medical Association spoke out on Friday to urge the Government not to go ahead with the June 21 date until there is better understanding of the implications of the rapidly rising number of cases.

Its statement said the situation is still not clear to what extent the surge in cases will lead to more people needing hospital care and said there is "not the resilience or capacity in the health system to deal with any surge of Covid-19 patients and which would undermine the work to tackle the biggest backlog in care the NHS has ever faced."

Prime Minister Boris Johnson was yesterday said to be poised to agree to a delay to a delay of up to four weeks amid the rising concerns.

He was expected to meet senior ministers and officials last night before making an announcement to the nation later today.

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