The impact of COVID-19 on the NHS

  • The impact of COVID-19 on the NHS
Simon Bransby, Hatch Brenner Solicitors

It has been widely publicised this year that COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on the NHS.

With services already under strain at the beginning of 2020 trying to recover from the winter months, additional steps had to be taken in March 2020 to prepare the NHS for the predicted influx of COVID patients, and the prevention of the wider spread of the virus.

These measures included:

  • Cancelling planned operations
  • Patients discharged back into the community as early as possible
  • Remote GP consultations

The impact of these measures, and the change in patient behaviour has seen a huge increase in the number of people who are now waiting for treatment to begin or surgeries to be rearranged.

Patient reluctance to visit the GP, for fear of contracting the virus, or ‘adding to the burden’, has also seen illnesses go undiagnosed, or reach a stage that means the treatment may no longer be as effective.

Cancer services have been particularly affected by the pandemic. Screening, diagnosis and delays in treatment have been put under huge strain, and it has been estimated that over two million people in the UK are now waiting for screening, tests and treatments since the start of lockdown in March 2020.*

Delays in diagnosis

The delay in a diagnosis can have a devastating, and in some cases, a fatal outcome for some patients.

If screening, diagnosis, and treatment is delayed, cancers may become inoperable. A delayed diagnosis can result in extra treatment, unnecessarily prolong a patient’s recovery time or reduce their life expectancy.

Treatments cancelled

Pressures on the NHS and the shortages of staff have resulted in many treatments and procedures being cancelled or postponed as hospitals battled to care for COVID patients and reduce the spread of the virus.

Delays may cause unnecessary harm and suffering to patients, which under normal circumstances would be deemed unacceptable or negligent.

Impact of COVID

The ‘Clap for Carers’ tribute, was a social movement created during the pandemic as a gesture of appreciation for the NHS and medical staff who have worked under intense pressure to manage treatments and care for patients during this unprecedented time, and echoed the sentiments of the country.

As we emerge from the second lockdown, and look ahead to Christmas and the New Year, the full impact that COVID has had on patients and the NHS remains unknown.

Unfortunately, for many people seeking medical treatment for illnesses such as cancer, the overwhelming pressure felt by the NHS has meant they have not received the same standard of care as they would have pre-COVID and the outcomes could be devastating.

Delays only add costs onto the NHS already strained budget. There is also the cost to family and loved ones as well as wider society.

Case Study – delay in diagnosis

Hatch Brenner Solicitors Chartered Legal Executive and Medical Negligence specialist Simon Bransby recently acted on behalf of a family of patient who had received treatment from a local hospital. It was alleged that the hospital did not properly diagnose and treat his cancer, which led to his death.

It was accepted by the hospital that an earlier diagnosis should have been made, but they denied this would have made much difference to the treatment and eventual outcome.

An Inquest took place, following which the hospital was prepared to offer an apology and provide compensation to the family.

Speak to our team of Medical Negligence Solicitors via 01603 660 811, or email info@hatchbrenner.co.uk.

*Cancer Research UK

*British Medical Association (BMA)

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