Coronavirus has had a profound impact on many aspects of society – from home life to business and beyond – but healthcare has perhaps been impacted the most heavily, as skyrocketing cases caused hospital wards to fill their beds, and a structural shift in the way appointments were conducted. One such corner of healthcare that was heavily affected, but little-reported, was that of elective surgeries. Here we’ll discuss exactly how elective healthcare was affected and the ways in which hospitals were offering elective procedures accommodated during the pandemic.
Impact of Covid on Elective Surgeries
Much like other pathways in UK healthcare, elective surgeries saw a dramatic uptick in waiting times as hospital processes slowed to meet new demand. Elective processes, however, were affected more dramatically; non-urgent and elective surgeries were postponed at the outset of the pandemic, resuming only in June 2020 with an extended backlog – which was frustrated further by the incidence of coronavirus’ second wave. These backlogs exist to this day as hospitals struggle to get back on top of patient waiting lists. According to an analysis by the Health Foundation, 6 million fewer people completed elective care pathways between January 2020 and July 2021 than usually expected.
How Hospitals Have Supported Patients
While elective surgeries were postponed for some months at the start of the pandemic, they did eventually resume, albeit at a reduced rate. One of the key ways in which the virus affected patients that did get seen was in advice and care before and after surgery. Transform Hospital Group, which offers a wide range of elective and cosmetic procedures, including breast enlargement and rhinoplasty, applied numerous changes to their approach during the pandemic, prioritizing patient care and support and realizing new ways of ensuring clinical advice was given appropriately. One such change made was in the transition of pre and post-operation support to an on-call system, whereby nurses and surgeons alike were available for patient advice remotely and on a 24/7 basis.
Impact on Healthcare Roles
The change in the delivery of patient support and advice also had an impact on the roles of individual healthcare providers, from nurses and technicians up to the surgeons themselves. Several private hospitals specializing in elective procedures pivoted to assisting the NHS; as a result, many nurses experienced in preparing healthy patients for elective procedures were transitioned to assisting patients after urgent, non-elective procedures. For practitioners who continued to work with patients undergoing elective surgery, the change in policy for in-person consultation saw a pivot in the skills required for patient aftercare. Nurses interacted more with communications technology and adapted their roles to cover a more holistic aftercare approach.