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How is the pandemic affecting non-covid services?

BMJ 2021; 372 doi: (Published 22 January 2021) Cite this as: BMJ 2021;372:n215

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  1. Gareth Iacobucci
  1. The BMJ

As NHS hospitals struggle to find enough beds for patients with covid-19, Gareth Iacobucci examines the strain this is placing on other services

“One of the operating suites that normally does routine surgery has been converted into a 12 bed intensive care unit. We’re doing very little routine work, and we’re struggling to try to get some of the cancer work done. On a day to day basis, we very rarely get intensive care beds at the moment.”

Like many doctors, consultant anaesthetist Helgi Johannsson was moved from working in planned surgery to the intensive care unit because of the high volume of covid admissions. And he expects to remain there for several months.

“Although [covid cases are] flattening off a little bit, it certainly hasn’t reached the stage where we’re emptying intensive care beds,” he told The BMJ.

Postponement of cancer surgery

The picture Johannsson paints will be familiar to most hospital doctors in the UK. Earlier this month it was reported that one London trust was so overstretched that it had to postpone all “priority 2” surgery, such as cancers and urgent cardiac surgery, which are deemed medically necessary to be done within 28 days.1

Fiona Donald, vice president of the Royal College of Anaesthetists, told The BMJ, “London appears to be having the biggest pressure at the moment. Some of the priority …

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