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Hospitals battling to treat people with "chronic diseases" amid Covid backlog

People with "chronic diseases" who could not get treatment during the pandemic are now piling pressure onto hospitals struggling to cope with the Covid backlog, an NHS chief has said.

Sandwell Hospital.

Richard Beeken, interim boss at the Sandwell's NHS trust, also said the number of people wanting to see GPs face-to-face was leaving primary care struggling to cope and sending more people to hospital A&E departments.

Mr Beeken said the Sandwell and West Birmingham Trust, which runs Sandwell General and Birmingham City hospitals, was "seeing unprecedented pressures" and that demand at some hospitals were at "levels never before seen at this time of year".

Hospitals are now facing a battle to tackle the backlog of operations delayed during the Covid crisis and there are fears about the impact on patients with serious illnesses who have had to wait for treatment. There is particular concern for cancer patients.

It comes as bosses attempt to plan for the upcoming winter when there will potentially be a surge in Covid cases.

Mr Beeken said in his latest report to board members: "At the time of writing this report we are seeing unprecedented pressures across our system in urgent care portals – be it primary care, urgent treatment centres, emergency departments and the ambulance service.

"Some organisations are seeing record numbers of attendances and in particular, activity levels never before seen at this time of year.

"The working hypothesis at present regarding why, centres on primary care being unable to cope with the number of patients who wish to be seen face to face by a GP and more acutely, the effect of supressed chronic disease demand during the pandemic, surfacing in acute presentations demanding paramedic or urgent care clinician attention."

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