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Surgeons welcome regional prioritisation of surgery during current wave of Covid-19 pandemic

08 Jan 2021

The Royal College of Surgeons’ Director in Northern Ireland has welcomed the health minister’s announcement of much greater regional collaboration in order to keep urgent surgery, such as cancer and heart operations, going in the face of rising Covid-19 cases. 

Mr Mark Taylor, Northern Ireland Director for the Royal College of Surgeons of England, has called for new guidance published by the College1 to be adopted urgently in Northern Ireland. The guidance recommends:

Delivery of elective services on a networked basis, via an interconnected system of providers;
Engaging in early local and regional cooperation to protect essential resources for elective surgical pathways;
Weekly forecasting of COVID-19 demand on capacity and resources as a baseline for determining the ability to add non-COVID-19 cases.

Mr Taylor welcomed the announcement that the Department of Health, Health and Social Care Board (HSCB) and Trusts will identify capacity for surgery, wherever this may be found, and prioritise those patients most likely to deteriorate without an operation.   

It was announced yesterday that hospitals in Belfast are cancelling planned surgery due to a surge of patients with Covid-19. It has been widely reported that Northern Ireland’s Chief Scientific Officer, Professor Ian Young, warned as many as 1 in 40 people may have the virus and hospital inpatients could rise to 1,000 in coming weeks2.

Mr Taylor explained:

“Health and social care staff in Northern Ireland are working tremendously hard to make sure every patient, Covid-19 or otherwise, receives care and treatment. However, modelling suggests a major influx of Covid-19 cases in the coming weeks that will have a significant impact on other aspects of the HSC service, including planned surgery. 

“We welcome the health minister’s announcement of much greater regional collaboration – it will give hope to those patients already affected by cancellations. It’s vital we use capacity wherever we have it, including in the independent sector. 

“Some patients and medical staff may have to travel to other hospitals. By working together we can make sure those most urgently in need, for example those awaiting cancer or heart surgery, get treatment regardless of where they live.” 


Notes to editors

1. The Royal College of Surgeons of England’s new guidance, Managing elective surgery during the surges and continuing pressures of COVID-19, is available to read here: 


3. The Royal College of Surgeons of England (RCS Eng) is a professional membership organisation and registered charity, which exists to advance surgical standards and improve patient care.  For more information or interviews, please contact the press office: email:; Tel: 0207 869 6047.

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