A new report published in the journal Lancet suggests that an additional 100,000 elective surgeries may be cancelled in England this winter as a result of the Omicron wave’s increased hospital admissions.
The modelling study, which was published as a peer-reviewed research letter in The Lancet, demonstrates a strong correlation between the number of elective surgeries performed each week and the number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19.
The research team, led by experts from the University of Birmingham, examined NHS England data from September 2020 to July 2021 to construct a model for forecasting elective surgery activity based on the number of COVID-19 patients admitted to the hospital.
They estimate that during the first two weeks of October 2021, elective surgery in England would have decreased by 21.9 % (or 14,348 operations per week) compared to the pre-pandemic period.
However, if the number of COVID-19 patients admitted to hospitals in England reaches the levels recorded during the first COVID-19 wave in April 2020, the volume of elective surgery in England would decline by 33.9 % (or 22,147 operations per week) compared to pre-pandemic levels.
This suggests that an increase in COVID-19 admissions from October 2021 to April 2020 levels would result in a reduction of 100,273 elective procedures conducted over the three winter months (December 2021 to February 2022). Below are projections for elective surgery reductions under different situations.
Mr. Aneel Bhangu from the University of Birmingham said: “Our study shows that as more COVID-19 patients are admitted to hospital, surgical units are forced to cancel elective operations to release capacity to treat COVID-19,”
“Hospitals work hard to prioritise life-saving operations, including those helping cancer patients. The greatest impact of hospital pressures from COVID-19 is on patients waiting for non-life saving, but the quality of life-transforming surgery.
“Cancellations may mean that patients wait even longer for operations like hip replacements, resulting in deterioration of their symptoms and increased disability. Ringfenced elective hubs are urgently needed to protect elective surgery this winter.”
Dr. Dmitri Nepogodiev added: “Surgical patient numbers have been reduced by the measures hospitals have taken to ensure patient safety and reduce the risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection in hospital. These numbers are further diminished by each incremental increase in COVID-19 admissions to hospital.”
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