Pandemic sees 17% fewer emergency and 30% fewer elective surgeries

Pandemic sees 17% fewer emergency and 30% fewer elective surgeries

The RCSI National Clinical Programme in Surgery analysis found the most significant reduction in surgical discharges occurred in April and May 2020. File pic

There were 17% fewer emergency surgeries and 30% fewer elective surgeries performed during the Covid-19 pandemic, a new report has found.

The RCSI National Clinical Programme in Surgery (NCPS) published an analysis of the impact Covid-19 had on surgical activity.

It found the most significant reduction in surgical discharges occurred in April and May 2020, dropping to 34.7% of 2019 average monthly volumes.

The report also detailed the impact of the pandemic on waiting lists, showing a 153% increase from April 2020 to April 2021 in the number of surgical patients waiting longer than 12 months for their procedures.

The total surgical outpatient waiting list increased by 15%, the report found.

General surgery is the speciality that accounts for the highest number of patients on waiting lists with 31,517 patients, followed by orthopaedics (10,393) and urology (9,797).

As of April 2021, 27.1% of the 76,949 cases on the waiting list for inpatient care, day cases and endoscopies were deemed urgent.

ENT significantly curtailed

Patient access to urgent ear, nose and throat (ENT) surgery was also “significantly curtailed”, resulting in over 100,000 patients now waiting for their first specialist appointment.

However, the NCPS notes that a care pathway for surgical patient triage and treatment during the pandemic was defined and a GP-Surgeon Connect service which allowed GPs to rapidly connect with surgical experts, resulted in a greater number of patients being managed in the community.

Professor Deborah McNamara, NCPS co-lead, said it is important to remember how little we knew about Covid and its duration in early 2020.

Professor Deborah McNamara.
Professor Deborah McNamara.

“Italian hospitals were overrun, with inadequate ventilators and ICU beds. Reports indicated high postoperative mortality among surgical patients who acquired Covid-19, raising significant concerns about patient safety,” she said.

“As a result, deferral of non-essential surgery was uniformly advised. The waiting lists we see today are the consequence of that deferral. We now need to increase surgical activity across the health service to meet the needs of these patients.” 

Kenneth Mealy, co-lead of the NCPS said the pandemic has exacerbated what were “already unstainable waiting lists”.

“The HSE must act to immediately protect capacity for scheduled surgery. RCSI and the Irish surgical community will work with the HSE and hospital managers to maximise the use of surgical capacity, ensuring that patients have swifter access to care, once that capacity is ring-fenced,” he added.

A spokeswoman for the HSE said the health minister will "shortly announce" a waiting list action plan to address acute scheduled care waiting lists during the Winter 2021 period.

"Work on a longer-term multi-annual waiting list action plan is also well underway," she added.

More in this section

Puzzles logo

Puzzles hub

Cookie Policy Privacy Policy FAQ Help Contact Us Terms and Conditions

© Irish Examiner Ltd