A TOP medical expert has expressed concerns at the knock-on effect rising Covid-19 hospital admissions may have on cancer surgeries and other emergency treatment.

Professor Neil Mortensen, president of the Royal College of Surgeons, said routine appointments such as hip and knee replacements have already been postponed, but the pressure Covid is causing could see more serious illnesses also put on the back burner.

In recent weeks cases of Covid-19 have soared, causing hospital admissions to rise significantly and deaths to rise to levels not seen for months.

There are currently more than 23,000 people in hospital with Covid-19, the highest levels since Spring 2020.

Professor Mortensen said: “Over the weekend we talked about a slow-motion car crash, but I think it’s getting much worse than that now.

“My colleagues in London doing ward rounds, for example, report that there are problems with staff numbers on the wards, staff numbers in theatres.

“And then of course if you need to go to the intensive care unit, if the intensive care unit is full of Covid patients there’s no room for you.

“So it’s a really serious situation and, obviously, the less-priority operations have already stopped in many places – hips, knees, ENT (ear nose and throat) procedures.

“We’re now concerned about operations like cancer surgeries being cancelled or postponed because there just isn’t the capacity to be able to manage them.

“I think if you have a delayed operation for cancer that may have an effect.

“If you come in from a road traffic accident and you’re seriously ill, and you need to go to an intensive care unit afterwards and there is no intensive care unit, that’s going to have serious consequences.

“And that’s why everybody is so concerned right now that we are properly locked down, that we’re as far as we possibly can reducing the transmission of the virus, and making it possible for what facilities we do have to carry on working effectively to keep people alive.

“There needs to be space in our hospitals for us to deal with all the other things – the heart attacks or strokes, the cancer surgeries and emergency surgery.

“We have to be able to keep capacity to do those. And if we don’t reduce the transmission of the virus, there won’t be that capacity.”

On whether the NHS will be able to return to normal business by late spring, he added: “I’m afraid I’m one of the pessimists I think this is going to drag on a bit.

“I think that we’re really not going to be any bit in any better shape (until) summer I’m afraid.

“I think it’s going to take a long time. This is a very, very, very serious situation.

“There’ll be an enormous backlog of elective surgeries, and we may have backlogs of some more urgent surgeries to get through as well so it’s going to be a long tough, hard winter and spring.”