As the NHS shifts their focus to UK’s mammoth booster program, routine operations and scans may be delayed. Health leaders warned.

Boris Johnson promised all eligible 53million adults that he would offer a booster Covid vaccine before January 31st to protect the country from an incoming Omicron wave.

However, with a crippling shortage of staff and wait lists at an all time high, the health chiefs warn that it could lead to a reduction in planned operations and scans. 

‘The only way we will be able to meet the requirement will be to stop less essential and more routine work and I’m very reluctant to do that given the backlogs and pressures in the system,’ one NHS leader told The Independent.

It is possible that delays in elective care (which includes regular procedures such as knee surgeries) and scans to check for heart disease or cancer will increase the number of NHS wait lists. 

The wait list in England for treatment is already at 6 million, however, a new report warns that this number could rise to more than 2,000,000 in just four years. This will be because millions of people return to the NHS for the care they need after the pandemic.        

Barry Smith, aged 60, receives his Pfizer booster jab at Copes Pharmacy in London earlier this week

Barry Smith (60 years old) receives his Pfizer booster shot at Copes Pharmacy, London, earlier in the week

The NHS waiting list for routine hospital treatment in England reached 5.83million in September, the latest available. But the National Audit Office has warned it could spiral to twice this level by 2025 despite billions being pumped into the health service

In September 2018, the NHS waiting list in England for routine hospital care reached 5.83million. However, the National Audit Office warns that the waiting list for routine hospital treatment in England could reach twice the level of the current situation by 2025, even though billions have been pumped into it.

The above graph shows how the NHS waiting list could grow up to 2025. The National Audit Office warns if 50 per cent of missing patients return and demand grows at 3.2 per cent a year then the list could surge above 12million. But should the NHS manage to increase treatments dished out by more than 10 per cent a year then the list should stabilise at 8million in 2024 before falling slightly, they suggested

This graph illustrates how the NHS wait list may grow to 2025. According to the National Audit Office, if 50% of patients who have been missing return are treated and demand rises at 3.2% per year, then the waiting list could reach 12 million. They suggested that if the NHS can increase the number of treatments dispersed by over 10 percent per year, then the list could stabilize at 8 million in 2024 and fall slightly if they fail to do so.

Now, NHS leaders have anonymously told The Independent the only way to meet the Government’s Covid booster deadline is to scale back or suspend routine care. 

NHS England is yet to disclose the specifics of how the healthcare providers in the UK will accelerate the vaccination programme’s pace, however, a leader at one trust stated that resources taken from planned care were the best option. 

What exactly is elective healthcare? 

Pre-planned care is called elective. 

The procedure involves specialist staff, surgery, and usually occurs after being referred by a GP. 

You might be able to have your knees operated on or remove kidney stones.

You can include scans for certain cancers.

‘It’s the only way of hitting the deadline, we’ve done the modelling and [we]They stated that they will require hundreds more staff who are equivalent in time.  

One leader of the NHS said that screening for GPs and health check-ups may be necessary. This has been discussed.

“Some screening or non-urgent work can be stopped and this is being negotiated nationally, but it would be necessary to clarify for community services providers which carried out much the vaccine program’, they stated.  

Chris Hopson (chief executive at NHS Providers), which represents all NHS hospitals said that the boost campaign will force health leaders into balancing their priorities.  

He said that trust leaders recognize the importance of the booster campaign and will have to manage its additional demands while also managing current care backlogs.

“Trust leaders will try to minimize activity reduction but will, when needed, prioritise based upon clinical need. They are extremely skilled at this.   

Despite the total A&E admissions in England being just two per cent more than August and  equal to the number of people who came forward during the same month (October) in 2019, 7,059 patients were forced to wait more than 12 hours to be seen at A&E. The record-high figure is 40 per cent more than the 5,024 forced to wait that long one month earlier

Despite the total A&E admissions in England being just two per cent more than August and  equal to the number of people who came forward during the same month (October) in 2019, 7,059 patients were forced to wait more than 12 hours to be seen at A&E. It is 40% higher than the record 5,024 who were forced to wait this long last month.

The proportion of cancer patients starting treatment within a month fell to the lowest level since records began in September, latest figures show. Records were started in 2009. The health service's own standards set out that 96 per cent of people should begin treatment, such as chemotherapy and immunotherapy, within 30 days of it being approved

Latest figures reveal that the proportion of patients with cancer who started treatment in less than a month has fallen to its lowest point since September records were created. In 2009, records began. In 2009, records were started.

Johnson spoke out about how 400 military personnel would be drafted to aid the campaign and the thousands of unpaid volunteers. 

UK’s mammoth booster drive explained

By the beginning of January, every adult in the UK over 18 years old will receive a coronavirus booster shot.

– The Jabs are offered in five year age groups that descend. They will start with the older adult and most vulnerable people before they move down. 

The NHS will notify people when they can book an appointment to have a jab. They are asking people to wait to be invited. 

Together, there will almost 3,000 locations in the UK that offer vaccinations. This is nearly twice current numbers. 

1.500 Community Pharmacy Sites will offer jabs, and will all be instructed to expand capacity  

For the NHS, at most 400 military personnel will deploy to support volunteers and staff to administer jabs.  

 GPs and community pharmacists will be incentivised to deliver more jabs, with the payment for standard delivery of a vaccination increased to £15 a shot

– An extra £5 per shot will be offered to GPs and pharmacists if they work on Sundays

– A £30 premium will be offered to GPs and pharmacists for vaccinations delivered to people who are housebound

Care Quality Commission to continue an halt on routine inspections in general practice, which will free up the time of clinicians  

To increase access to smaller venues, the NHS will eliminate the 15-minute wait after vaccination.   

– The NHS is recruiting for up to 10,000 new paid vaccinator roles as well as for an army of ‘tens of thousands’ of new volunteers to help with the drive

The unpaid volunteer must be available to work two hours per month and will assist at the vaccine centres.

– 18million boosters have been delivered by the UK already, which surpasses any country except China and the USA.

53million are likely to be eligible eventually, and 22 million will still qualify if they have not received a boost.  

Although some individuals may be trained in vaccine administration, it is not possible for all of them to become certified health professionals. They must also be properly trained and licensed to provide the necessary support to patients and prepare vaccines. 

And Sajid Javid has already outlined how GPs’ workload will be shifted to focus on the booster campaign in a dramatic U-turn — as fears grow that face-to-face appointments with doctors will once again take the hit.

The Health Secretary said getting third doses into people’s arms to protect against the Omicron variant had become the ‘new national mission’, after months of strong-arming GPs into seeing more non-Covid patients in-person.

GPs will once again be a key anchor of the vaccination programme and will be financially incentivised to take part with doctors getting £15 for every jab delivered with a £5 bonus per shot delivered on Sundays and a £30 premium for jabs delivered to vulnerable people in their homes.

Asking if Javid would reduce the workload for physicians who complain about their work schedules, Javid replied to BBC Radio 4’s Today program: “Yes, this is our new national task in terms the public health and safety of this country. 

“We have been working with GP representatives over the past two days to find ways we can make their lives easier. It will not be something I do right now, but it will be done by the NHS.

Some are concerned about the impact re-prioritization may have on face to face appointments with GPs. While they only recently increased their share of 64%, this is still a significant drop from pre-pandemic levels.

This week’s shocking report from the National Audit Office (NAO), also warns that up to 740,000 urgent referrals were missing for possible cancers. 

The NAO — an independent watchdog that scrutinises public spending for Parliament —said millions of patients had missed out on vital care during the pandemic.

While the current waiting list stands at 5.8million, it is expected to rise by more than four times in four years. The NAO believes that millions of patients will return to the NHS for their care. One in five Britons was caught up in this backlog.

Even in the ideal scenario of the NHS increasing appointments by 10%, the NAO warned that the NHS’s waiting list could grow to 7million people by 2025.

There are also concerns about the wider impact the shift could have on non-Covid care, with record A&E wait times, and heart attack and stroke patients facing average waits for an ambulance of nearly an hour.

Last month, Mr Javid warned that the emergency department was under severe strain due to patients’ inability to visit GPs. 

When he became Health Secretary in June 2011, Mr Javid stated that addressing NHS backlogs was his top priority and said the country “has to learn how to live with Covid”.

Royal College of GPs warns that ‘decisions must be made’ as family doctors are unable to keep up with the current demand while also trying to manage the huge booster jab drive. 

Spokespeople from the Department of Health and Social Care said that the Government is continuing to collaborate with the NHS in order to make sure both the boost campaign and the efforts to address the backlog of care go ahead.

They stated that the booster program is essential to protect people from the virus. It reduces hospital admissions as well as the pressure on the NHS. 

“We work closely with NHS in expanding the rollout booster programme. This will ensure that they have the support needed to deal with backlogs and deliver care for patients.  

Yesterday, 19 million Covid booster jabs were delivered in the UK.