Covid's tragic legacy: Hospital waiting lists threaten most sick

Carly has endometriosis, a condition that causes debilitating cramps, but she has been told surgery could be nine months off, ITV News Health Editor Emily Morgan reports

Last year, when I was covering the shocking effects Covid was having on patients and the NHS, hospital staff kept warning me about something else.

That something else was the huge backlog of patients they would have to deal with once Covid was under control.

As hospitals emptied of non-Covid patients and people stayed at home, too afraid to go to their GP, hundreds of thousands of people were getting sicker and waiting longer for routine treatment.

Today the waiting list sits at 5 million, the highest figure since records began in 2007.

Nearly half a million patients have waited longer than a year for treatment.

The list for those waiting for trauma and orthopaedics is the longest, and not far behind is ophthalmology.

Anyone with eye conditions will tell you that surgery can be quick and very effective but, if it’s left and conditions deteriorate, patients can lose their eye sight. For them, waiting is not an option.

The NHS is doing all it can to get through these lists. Surgery is being performed in the evenings, at weekends and in some cases overnight.

The prime minister is committed to focusing on cutting waiting lists in the Queens Speech and more money has been announced on Thursday to help Trusts buy mobile CT and MRI scanning trucks and invest in equipment to look after patients in ‘virtual wards’.

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But £160 million alone won’t necessarily have the desired affect - technicians and staff are needed to operate these scanners and staff, as we know, are already stretched, over-worked and have had a bruising year already.

Some of the money will also go towards paying private hospitals to treat patients but private waiting lists are also increasing and waits, though not as long, are getting longer.

The sad reality is that this is a legacy of Covid and could see patients getting sicker on waiting lists. Of course, some may also die.

Some Trust leaders are predicting this could take up to five years to solve. For the sickest patients, they simply don’t have that time.

I have no doubt NHS staff are doing everything they can but I think we may have to get used to seeing the tragic after-effects of Covid for some time to come.