Birmingham’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital has cancelled all planned procedures after a spike in the number of ‘very sick’ patients.
The trust that runs the hospital said it had seen a surge in Covid and non-Covid emergency cases.
All non-emergency surgery at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital scheduled up until the end of November will have to be rearranged but the trust said this would be reviewed on an ongoing basis.
The Good Hope Hospital in Sutton Coldfield has also been forced to postpone gynaecology procedures.
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‘This is an extremely difficult decision and has not been taken lightly,’ University Hospitals Birmingham (UHB) said in a statement.
‘We know that affected patients will be distressed and upset with this decision, and for this we can only apologise. However, we must ensure that all those needing urgent care are able to access treatment safely.
‘Cancer treatment and life-saving care will remain our priority. All patients affected by this announcement will be contacted individually to rearrange their postponed surgery.’
Some non-emergency operations had already been rescheduled in a bid to free up capacity, according to Birmingham Live.
All operations deemed ‘non critical’ were put under review last month as pressure on services mounted.
It is not clear how many people the measure will affect.
It comes after NHS England was moved to its highest alert level of emergency amid fears it will run out of beds during the country’s second coronavirus wave.
Under level four alert, NHS England will take control of coordination of the NHS’s response, in partnership with local commissioners.
Despite the move, a national freeze on elective surgery has not been announced, although local restrictions are already in place in the North West and Midlands.
NHS England and ministers say they want normal care, including surgery, to continue over winter, but several NHS trusts have started postponing surgery to stop hospitals becoming overwhelmed.
At a Downing Street press conference yesterday, NHS England boss Sir Simon Stevens said the NHS was working ‘incredibly hard’ to prepare and catch up with care that was disrupted during the first wave, when thousands of operations were cancelled.
He told people in England to ‘help us, help you’ as he urged Brits to stick to the rules of the month-long lockdown that came into force on Thursday.
But some doctors say the NHS is facing potentially ‘impossible demands’ and that routine operations will have to be cancelled.
Dr Tom Dolphin, a consultant anaesthetist and member of the British Medical Association’s council, told The Guardian: ‘Things are going to get worse in the NHS before they get better, even with the lockdown, because it takes time for people who have been infected to get sick and come to hospital.
‘So the impact on changes to transmission rates from the lockdown will take a while to show up.’
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