Coronavirus: Cancelled operation was like 'having rug pulled from under my feet'

29 September 2020, 04:33 | Updated: 29 September 2020, 06:10

Angela Evans was due to have a reconstructive mastectomy in May, a lengthy procedure which rebuilds the breast tissue during the same surgery which removes it.

But when the COVID-19 pandemic struck, that was no longer an option.

"I got a call from the team in mid-March to say they were shutting down all non-essential surgery, and that I would be referred to my own local hospital for a simple mastectomy," Angela said.

The 58-year-old diagnostic radiographer from Bolton said it felt like a rug being pulled from under her feet.

"Though I am grateful to have been able to have the lifesaving surgery that I have, every day I'm not happy with the asymmetry, it's quite upsetting really," she added.

Charity Breast Cancer Now says more than 1,500 breast cancer patients in the UK are facing lengthy waits for reconstructive surgery due to the backlog caused by the pandemic.

Non-essential surgery was swept to the side because of the strain coronavirus put on the health service.

And a new report, which surveyed more than 250 NHS England senior leaders, has warned that almost three quarters of them say they do not feel confident they could meet the end-of-October target for restoring routine operations.

"We have a pretty tired workforce, but as we're moving forward we're facing something of a triple whammy," said Danny Mortimer, chief executive of the NHS Confederation which authored the report.

"We've got renewed outbreaks, a likely second surge of the virus, we've got to deal with that.

"We've got a backlog in some parts of the NHS because of choices that we had to make to respond to the pandemic in the first phase and we've also got some new demand that's coming, partly because of the virus.

"We have got to rehabilitate patients in particular and obviously the present situation is having an impact on people's mental health.

"Our staff will continue to work as hard as they have done. They are tired but they are committed to their patients."

The report, called NHS Reset, notes that even though the health service made "huge progress" in clearing the backlog, the pandemic will likely have an impact on capacity for several years.