HOSPITALS and courts in Bradford face a mounting backlog of thousands of operations and hundreds of criminal cases and inquests due to the coronavirus shutdown.

It means they face weeks of catching up after lockdown ends even without extra people being being added to the list in the next few weeks.

Over the past 14 weeks about 3,000 operations have had to be postponed by hospitals in the district with cancer screening and out-patient appointments also hit.

Airedale NHS Foundation Trust said its total operations fell from around 141 per week to just 13 over the 14 weeks of lockdown to date meaning that about 1,700 operations were put off.

If the hospital gets back to performing 141 operations a week that backlog alone would take about 12 weeks to clear without the new procedures of other patients being added to it.

Across the country about 10 million people will be on the waiting list for NHS treatment by the end of the year according to projections by the NHS Confederation.

Cancer Research UK has estimated that across the UK delays to cancer screening mean about 2.1 million people are waiting for breast, bowel or cervical screening.

The coroner for West Yorkshire says 125 inquests have been adjourned to dates in September when the service hopes that inquests will resume.

The Ministry of Justice said it could not give out any figures for the number of cases adjourned at Bradford courts but the Justice Secretary confirmed last week there was currently a backlog of 41,000 legal cases waiting to be dealt with in crown courts across the country after many were halted due to the coronavirus crisis.

And at a meeting of the West Yorkshire Police and Crime Panel last Friday, top police officers raised concerns about the backlog of cases that the lockdown has caused, with the local Police and Crime Commissioner saying it was "clearly a crisis."

HM Senior Coroner for West Yorkshire, Martin Fleming, said: “As a result of the lockdown, and in accordance with the actions taken by all other Coroner Areas in England and Wales, it has been necessary to adjourn 125 inquests to dates throughout September in order to safeguard families and witnesses from the virus.

“Under these unavoidable circumstances, families and witnesses have been notified that their cases have been postponed with a full explanation as to why. We’ve also assured them that they will be contacted as and when there are any updates or changes to proceedings. Our primary aim are to keep families fully informed and alleviate any additional stresses.

“Inevitably this situation has resulted in a backlog of inquests which will be expedited as soon as lockdown eases.

“In anticipation of the opening of the courts, plans have been put into place to deal with the backlog of inquests, with particular focus on expediting those inquests which were vacated during the lock down which will be greatly assisted by the availability of three courts in the new Coroner’s premises.”

Shaun Milburn, Deputy Director of Operations at Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We put our patients at the heart of everything we do and their health is our number one priority so we offer our sincere apologies to anyone whose operation has been delayed during this unprecedented time.

“The NHS has needed to respond at speed to the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic to care for those most seriously ill in our communities. However, we have continued to carry out cancer and urgent operations, and we are now in the process of resuming some other surgical activity. We are now contacting those patients to make the necessary arrangements.

“As a result of the pandemic, 1,147 fewer operations took place in three months (March to May 2020 compared to March to May 2019) due to postponing planned inpatient surgery; an overall reduction of around 50%.”

Rob Aitchison, Chief Operating Officer at Airedale NHS Foundation Trust said: “We do apologise to anyone whose operation has been delayed during this time. The NHS has needed to respond in an unprecedented way, and at speed, to care for those most seriously ill in our communities with Covid-19.

"Throughout the pandemic we have continued to carry out cancer and urgent operations, with our staff using the local hospitals in the independent sector to support this. We are looking to resume some routine surgical activity at Airedale Hospital in a phased way over the next few weeks and we will be contacting those patients in due course to make the necessary arrangements.

“During the past few months, we’ve continued to provide a proportion of our scheduled outpatient activity via phone or video consultation. We’ve also continued to provide face-to-face outpatient care for a number of patients with a clinically urgent need.

"We are currently working through plans to begin slowly increasing the level of planned clinical activity carried out in the hospital. The role of digital appointments will be an important part of this as we respond to the need to maintain social distancing and flow through the hospital.”