Patients may have to wait up to a year for a hip or knee operation leading doctors have warned, after strict infection control measures mean hospitals are facing a huge backlog in patients.
Non-emergency surgeries were halted in mid-March in a bid to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
Despite these services now resuming, hospitals are running at around half their usual capacity meaning waiting lists are growing.
But wait times for operations are only expected to increase further in the coming months, as the NHS has imposed strict infection control procedures in light of the pandemic, the Daily Mail reports.
These control measures mean fewer patients can attend clinics or stay overnight, while cleaning procedures for theatres have been stepped up between operations meaning the number of operations that can take place has decreased.
Professor Philip Turner, the immediate past president of the British Orthopaedic Association, said hospitals were assessing which cases were most urgent for patients awaiting operations.
He said: “It may seem unfair to those who have been on the list the longest and who thought they were just about to come in.
“I’ve been talking to some who received their admission letters – they’ve now been told ‘no’. But they may not be the ones who require treatment the most urgently.”
Professor Turner added that it could mean a delay in a patient’s operation for six months, but he said “I think it could be up to a year”.
The Telegraph previously reported that patients in need of a new hip or knee are increasingly being left in agony for more than a year, as NHS wait times had risen 50 per cent in 12 months by February 2020.
Professor Derek Alderson, president of the Royal College of Surgeons, said the long delays were a “cause of great concern”.