As lockdown 3 continues, how is your knee operation affected? Dave Duffy has the latest.
NOTE: This information was accurate on 19 January 2021, but please check with us for the latest information as things are changing fast.
You’ll no doubt be well aware of current Covid-19 cases, hospitalisations and deaths across the UK. I’m sure you will also have heard that many elective NHS surgeries, which include knee replacements and which were continuing in significant numbers throughout the summer and autumn, have once more been affected. Operations first started to be cancelled in London and the South East as the new variant took hold, but that picture has spread and a number of Yorkshire hospitals have now ceased elective work. This has happened for several reasons:
- Our local Covid hospitalisations have been increasing
- Yorkshire hospitals have taken a limited number of patients from other areas of the country worst hit by the current wave of the pandemic
- Staff absence is a real problem. As The Telegraph noted recently, almost 50,000 staff nationwide were off with Covid or forced to self-isolate because of contact with someone who had tested positive. To that list of absentees you can add the many staff who are having to home school their children as schools affected by Covid are forced to close and withdraw support for keyworker pupils.
Of all the issues we face, that third one is perhaps the most pressing, because it means that to find the intensive care staff, anaesthetists and others who are essential to delivering care, we now need to draw them from other areas to ‘backfill’ the gaps left by those who are absent.
When will my knee operation take place?
There’s no escaping the fact that the picture is extremely concerning. Last week, the Daily Mail reported that the numbers waiting 12 months or more for hip and knee replacements on the NHS now stand at 192,000 – a 160-fold increase on pre-pandemic figures.
In a normal year, around 160,000 hip and knee replacements are carried out each year. So even if Covid were to disappear tomorrow (which, of course, it won’t) it would take more than a year to work through that 12 month+ backlog, by which time many more people would have been added to it.
As we have said before on these pages, if you are on an NHS waiting list for a knee replacement you will receive it, but the wait is likely to be long.
Are private knee operations going ahead?
They have been, albeit at somewhat reduced numbers. At the height of the first lockdown the private sector gave over lots of capacity to the NHS but recently this has been scaled back.
Given the worrying increase in hospitalisations, however, this may change. If necessary, it may be that all private surgery capacity needs to be diverted to supporting the NHS. If that happens knee replacements and other elective surgeries will cease completely.
If your planned operation (NHS or private) is affected your hospital will let you know.
Reasons for optimism
It’s a bleak picture right now. But there is significant cause for optimism. Recently, Sir Simon Stephens, NHS chief executive, pointed out that whilst at present 2 patients are being admitted to hospital with Covid every minute, some 140 people are being immunised every minute – a figure which should improve still further.
So we can hope that any delays, in the private and public sector, are relatively short lived, and that during the spring we may be able to return to something closer to business as usual.
In the meantime, it’s worth stressing again that our virtual consultations are working extremely well. So if you are concerned about your knee pain, there is something you can do about it.
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