Why Medical Care For Thousands Is In Jeopardy Due To The Queen's Funeral

Just as the death of Queen Elizabeth II sent a ripple effect of change through the royal family, the queen's funeral is sending similar shockwaves through the United Kingdom. On Sept. 19, 2022, the world will say goodbye to Her Majesty. For thousands of patients in the National Healthcare System (NHS), their sole focus will be getting medical treatment.

Waiting lists at hospitals in England's NHS are already at record lengths, openDemocracy reports. At the end of July 2022, around 6.8 million people were still waiting for appointments, with 377,000 of them having waited for more than a year. According to NHS backlog data, those waiting include cancer patients, 40% of which have already been made to wait beyond the two-month maximum rule.

Part of the reason for long wait times has been the NHS's severe staffing crisis. A July 2022 report by Members of Parliament (MPs) found that England is facing "the worst workforce crisis in NHS history," per BBC. The report found that the system was short "12,000 hospital doctors and more than 50,000 nurses and midwives."

Already struggling to catch up from COVID-19 backlogs, BBC states that tackling the staffing shortage was supposed to be a "top priority for the new prime minister." But, like with most things, plans changed dramatically last week. On top of the original plans that new Prime Minister Liz Truss may have had, one monarch's funeral and another's coronation are now on her immediate agenda.

Thousands of NHS appointments were canceled because of the queen's funeral

Before plans for Queen Elizabeth II's funeral were even announced, King Charles III declared that the day of her funeral would be a national holiday. It's supposed to be treated like a bank holiday, adding that "there is no statutory entitlement to time off" and that it is "a matter of discussion between individuals and their employer."

Per openDemocracy, the NHS has let the decision for medical providers to close on Sept. 19, 2022 — the date of the queen's funeral — up to each location. As a result, some NHS trusts have decided to cancel and reschedule "all non-urgent procedures and clinic appointments." That includes but is not limited to "hip and knee replacements, cataract surgery, maternity checks, and some cancer treatments," per openDemocracy.

A letter obtained by the Daily Mail indicates that primary care doctors will also be "allowed to close for their core services as a result of the bank holiday." The letter, signed by Dr. Ursula Montgomery, the director of primary care for NHS England, urges doctors to let patients refill prescriptions ahead of the bank holiday due to office closures.

According to Bloomberg, many NHS locations like Queen Victoria Hospital in Sussex — a burn care center — are telling patients that they will contact them to reschedule, asking patients not to call in themselves. Emergency services and issuing of COVID-19 vaccinations, however, would not be disrupted.