BOA position on suspending surgery due to COVID-19 

15 Sep 2020

With cases of COVID rising across the UK there is discussion of a second wave and a spike in COVID-19 related hospital admissions this autumn. In the first wave many of the activities of the NHS were put on hold as a precaution to preserve capacity. This was understandable in the face of a rapidly escalating and unpredictable threat. We wish to participate in constructing resilient pathways to allow COVID-19 patients and the normal work of the NHS to co-exist. The BOA is keen to help ensure that in a second wave the normal care of our patients is only suspended as a consequence of absolute necessity.  

Postponing or cancelling operations leaves our patients with continuing symptoms including severe pain and loss of function.  They may require long term painkilling medications which themselves can have significant adverse side-effects. These factors coupled with the inevitable uncertainties may contribute to a deterioration in general health, loss of independence or inability to work. Waiting times were at record levels before COVID-19 and have increased dramatically this year, we should not allow them to lengthen further. 

It is not just our ability to operate today that is at risk. As the crisis lengthens we also need to protect against another threat to our capacity to treat patients. There are serious educational consequences of a further period of fewer operations. Reducing the number of operations will leave our trainee surgeons with fewer training opportunities. The NHS relies on the continuous availability of newly trained surgeons, and disruption of that career pathway may lead to delays in qualification and career progression.  This will put further pressure on the provision of future services and ability to catch up on lost time.