Damage done to non-Covid care threatens 'decade of disruption' and will cost extra £12BILLION a year
The horrifying impact of coronavirus on non-Covid care is laid bare in a major report for the first time and experts warn the pandemic has undone years of progress in the NHS and threatens a 'decade of health disruption'.
A surge in deaths and disabilities resulting from untreated cancer, heart disease and mental illness is now anticipated.
The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) says the pandemic has put a 'severe' strain on the NHS and had a devastating impact on patients.
Recovering from the setback and developing 'world-leading' care for future generations is likely to cost an extra £12billion a year, the think tank says.
It found there have been 31million fewer GP appointments than usual since the pandemic began, with people with long-term conditions hit hardest.
An additional 4,500 avoidable cancer deaths are expected this year alone because of disruptions to screening, diagnostic tests and treatments.
And an extra 12,000 avoidable heart attacks and strokes are likely over the next five years, the State of Health and Care report adds.
This is on top of the 5,600 excess cardiovascular deaths last year, the majority of which were 'attributable to healthcare disruption caused by the pandemic'.
The proportion of cancers diagnosed while still highly curable has dropped from 44 per to cent 41 per cent, undoing eight years of progress on colorectal cancer survival rates, six years for breast cancer and two years for lung cancer.
Checks on patients with severe mental illnesses have fallen below a third of their target levels and 235,000 fewer people have been referred for psychological therapies.
Meanwhile, eating disorder referrals for children have doubled and waiting lists have reached a five year high, the review found.
Hospitals cancelled non-urgent operations during the peak of the pandemic to focus on Covid patients and GPs encouraged people to switch from in-person to telephone consultations.
Ministers also urged people to 'stay at home' to protect the NHS and left many too terrified to attend A&E in case they caught coronavirus.
All are thought to have contributed to delays, deaths, a worsening of illnesses and a rise in pent-up demand, with waiting lists at a record high of 4.5million - but expected to hit 10million.
The report says: 'Waiting lists have ballooned, diagnoses missed, and treatments have been cancelled - and the full impacts of the second wave are yet to play out.
'The lack of spare capacity meant coping with Covid-19 has been at the expense of other health priorities. Recovering, and addressing the care backlog are urgent.' The IPPR calculates the NHS will need an extra £2.2billion a year for the next five years to recover the backlog and manage the surge in demand for mental health services.