‘I’m not ready to hang up my scalpel just yet’

What happens now? Private practice full-timer Mr Jeremy Latham sees his enforced free time as an opportunity to polish up his practice for an avalanche of work to come

Orthopaedic surgeon Mr Jeremy Latham

Twenty years as a consultant orthopaedic surgeon with a good private practice; what could possibly go wrong at this stage of my career? 

The answer: Covid-19.

The private hospitals have quite rightly handed over their capacity to the NHS to care for patients who are sick, but not in need of ventilatory support. 

We won’t be able to do any elective surgery for the foreseeable future. I’ve offered to help at the NHS trust where I was a consultant for 17 years, but it’s unlikely that they will need a specialist hip replacement surgeon at the moment. 

The patients who were hoping to have their joints replaced will have to endure more pain and suffering for longer while their health deteriorates and they become increasingly at risk of falls and frailty.

Once the pandemic has run its course, there will be a huge backlog of cases – some of them more complex due to deteriorating pathology and co-morbidities. Worryingly, the surgical workforce will be relatively de-skilled, which will increase the risk of complications.