10 million on NHS waiting lists in COVID-19 second peak, according to tool

Warrington, United Kingdom - March 6, 2016: Warrington, UK - march 6, 2016: View of the NHS (National Health Service)  logo at the Springfields Medical Centre in the centre of Warrington, Cheshire.

Almost 10 million patients could be on waiting lists for NHS treatment by the end of the year amid the anticipated second peak of the COVID-19 outbreak, according to estimates from the makers of a new app. 

The UK’s digital hospital Medbelle has announced the launch of a free online tool that allows patients to estimate waiting lists for treatment in their hospital amid the anticipated second peak of COVID-19. 

Medbelle’s efforts to create a digital service linking patients with privately-funded elective procedures have been affected by the pandemic. 

Most private hospital capacity has already been taken by the NHS during the pandemic, meaning the firm can only support patients with video consultations and information about when they can have surgery. 

The tool estimates that in the event of a second peak of the COVID-19 outbreak it could see the number of patients waiting for NHS services increase by 1.5 million by the end of the year, bringing the total waiting list to almost 10 million. 

Medbelle’s tool makes use of publicly available data published by the NHS and allows users to estimate waiting lists based on former NHS capacity. 

It uses data collected in February this year as a baseline and has four scenarios: reduced capacity but no second peak, limited capacity but no second peak, reduced capacity and a second peak, and full capacity. 

New medical guidelines around hospital safety are being constantly introduced and users can toggle NHS capacity in different scenarios, such as a second peak, treatment, and by their own hospital to get estimates on how long waiting lists will be in any given month. 

The tool estimates that a second peak would lead to the NHS postponing normal services for an additional two months. 

It also estimates that more than seven million people will be waiting for treatment by the end of July under current policies. 

Medbelle said the figures are a “stark increase” from the 4.5 million patients that were already on the waiting list at the end of February this year. 

Patients had already been waiting for an average of three months before the COVID-19 crisis forced all elective surgeries to be postponed by an additional three months. 

The estimation tool has two parts – an online overview and a hospitals-specific section that can be accessed via email signup on the same site. 

Medbelle says it is trying to “build a new standard” for elective procedures, the majority being in cosmetic and orthopaedic surgery.