NHS hospitals should not perform routine operations on Covid patients within two months of them getting the virus, experts have advised.
Despite warnings that the pandemic-fuelled backlog will double by 2024, surgeons say that only urgent surgery should be carried out within seven weeks of someone catching the virus.
No infected patient should be treated within 10 days of a positive test unless it’s a matter of life-or-death, under the new guidance.
This is because studies suggest patients are three times more likely to die after an operation in the seven weeks after catching Covid.
The advice was drawn up by a consortium of leading medical bodies — including the Royal College of Surgeons and Royal College of Anaesthetists.
NHS trusts do not have to follow their guidance, which covers elective care such as hip and knee replacements. Thousands of ‘Covid’ patients are currently in hospitals across England despite not being primarily ill with the virus.
Professor Duncan Summerton, a consultant urological surgeon at Leicester General Hospital and one of the guideline authors, said: ‘There has been a desire both within the UK and in health systems around the world to increase elective surgical activity to pre-Covid levels to help clear the ever-increasing backlog.
‘However, this must be balanced with delivering that surgery as safely as possible.’
Experts published their updated guidance — a refreshed version of advice issued last spring — yesterday in the journal Anaesthesia.
They noted that there is no evidence on how Omicron impacts the effectiveness of surgery or recovery.
But data shows that patients who underwent elective surgery within six weeks of testing positive with earlier strains were three times more likely to die than those who had not been recently infected.
Their guidance states that Omicron triggers a milder illness for most people — but there is no evidence on how an infection with the strain affects surgery outcomes.
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