At least six hospital trusts in the UK have now had to stop non-urgent operations due to the second wave of Covid-19.
Cities including Leeds, Glasgow, Nottingham, Birmingham, Edinburgh and Plymouth are affected, with more set to follow.
It comes as the BMA has warned of the scale of cancellations already taking place.
Certain areas, such as Yorkshire and Northern Ireland, are particularly struggling with the rising cases of Covid-19 at present.
Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust is currently treating 263 patients who have tested positive for Covid, including 22 in intensive care, meaning that it has more Covid patients now than at the peak of the pandemic in April.
Anticipating the number of people in critical care to increase today and tomorrow, it said in a statement yesterday: ‘We are standing down some planned operations due to current pressures which means that some patients will have their treatment postponed; only essential operations are going ahead in most cases.’
Elsewhere in West Yorkshire, Airedale NHS Foundation Trust has suspended non-urgent operations for two weeks.
Similarly, Scotland’s largest health board, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, has closed 17 wards to new admissions, while Belfast Health and Social Care Trust has cancelled more than 100 cancer procedures, including surgeries.
Speaking on BBC Radio yesterday, BMA Northern Ireland chair Dr Tom Black said: ‘Those hospitals – in the peak areas of Belfast, Derry and Strabane – will get it right and hard for the next few weeks.’
Adding that this is ‘the worst week for the NHS probably in living memory’, Dr Black continued: ‘The triple whammy is our hospitals are at 96% capacity in wards and beds at the moment. And that’s not counting the patients waiting in A&E’.
The Welsh NHS Confederation also warned today that hospitals are struggling with an increase in cases in Wales.
Director Darren Hughes said field hospitals ‘are now being used across Wales to help the NHS respond to the pandemic’, with ‘the likelihood’ being the ‘worst is yet to come as the NHS in Wales heads into the winter months’.
He added: ‘Providing non-Covid services becomes increasingly difficult as cases of Coronavirus rise in hospitals because we need to plan for more patients coming in with the virus, and we also need to take extra hygiene measures to make sure we can keep other areas of our hospitals safe for people to use.’
The current advice from NHS England regarding cancelled operations is for GPs to ‘continue to refer patients’ to secondary care, basing judgements around urgency on ‘usual clinical thresholds’.
However the latest guidance also said GPs should continue to use specialist advice and guidance ‘where available’ to avoid referring patients for outpatient appointments.