Suspension of non-urgent operations to be lifted, says NHS England

The suspension of non-urgent operations to ease winter pressures is to be lifted by NHS England next month, it has been announced.

The public body had advised hospitals to defer non-urgent operations until the end of January in a bid to free up beds and hospital staff amid winter pressures.

But on Friday it announced it would not renew the recommendation after January 31.

A meeting of the National Emergency Pressures Panel (NEPP) on Friday heard that "pressures on the NHS have eased in January compared to December" so hospitals should be able to start planning a return to a full elective care programme, from the start of February.

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A letter to NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups and Provider Trust chief executives said: "We are now beginning to see increases in bed capacity in line with the additional funding allocated in the November budget.

"Early indications also suggest the flu position is stabilising. Whilst demand remains high and there will be further challenges, NEPP recognises that nationally the pressures on the NHS have eased in January compared to December."

Earlier this month, Public Health England reported there had been a 65% rise in the number of people admitted to intensive care with flu.

More than 5,000 people were forced to wait more than an hour to be seen in emergency departments in the first week of the year amid record low waiting time performances across A&E departments.