Create specialist hubs to cut surgery waiting lists, Government urged

Specialist surgical hubs need to be established in England to tackle a “colossal backlog” of non-urgent procedures, the Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) said.

The body said such hubs should be developed to allow planned surgery to take place in every region of the country should there be a fresh wave of Covid-19, or other severe pressures caused by flu.

The RCS has also called on the Government to commit to spending an extra £1 billion on surgery annually for the next five years as part of 12 recommendations which are “long and short-term measures designed to improve the future sustainability of surgical services”.

Elective surgery – such as hip and knee replacements – were cancelled during the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic, and 4.95 million people were waiting to start NHS hospital treatment at the end of March – the highest number since records began in August 2007.

Professor Neil Mortensen, president of the RCS, said: “We need Government support for a New Deal for Surgery to reduce the colossal backlog in elective surgery and to help the NHS weather future pandemics.

“Surgery must be available on the NHS all year round, not stop and start.

“If a dangerous new variant of Covid-19 takes hold, or another bad flu arrives in the autumn, we cannot allow surgery to grind to a halt again or waiting lists will become insurmountable.”

The proposed hubs would be in every Integrated Care System, of which there are 42 in England.

“The surgical hub model is the best way we can keep treating people who need operations, regardless of future pandemics,” Professor Mortensen added.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “We have backed the NHS at every point in the pandemic, safeguarding urgent treatment such as cancer and emergency care, while protecting the NHS to ensure it was not overwhelmed.

“We are providing an extra £7 billion for health and care services this year, as well as £1 billion to tackle the backlogs that have built up, bringing our total additional Covid-19 investment to £92 billion.

“We face an unprecedented challenge and will continue to work closely with the NHS to accelerate the recovery of services so everyone gets the care they need, including £160 million to support hospitals to find innovate ways to carry out even more operations and cut waiting lists.”