SCRAPPING routine hospital procedures for two months every winter could ease pressure on the NHS, according to a leading doctor.

Dr Nick Scriven, president of the Society of Acute Medicine, said suspending all elective activity except cancer treatment throughout January and February would be a radical option to free up beds and enable resources to be dedicated to emergency surgeries and urgent treatment.

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He also said that no more acute beds should be closed.

Dr Scriven said: "People in power have to sit up and take notice that this isn't going to get better and unless something radical is done it is going to get worse.

"There are the things that people always talk about, like this year the NHS suggested that people should suspend elective activity for a month, should that be a routine thing?

"To free up the extra ward in every hospital in January and February.

"That would be one radical thing."

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The Society of Acute Medicine represents doctors across the UK who specialise in the care of adults who are admitted to hospital as an emergency. Past presidents include Alistair Douglas, a physician at Ninewells Hospital in Dundee.

Dr Scriven was speaking after hospitals in England were told to delay elective operations and routine outpatient appointments throughout January this year as hospital occupancy neared capacity.

In Scotland, NHS Tayside suspended all planned, non-urgent operations for three weeks from December 18 to January 8, with other health boards doing so for one or two weeks over the festive period.

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Professor Derek Bell, President of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh said a two-month shutdown was an "extreme measure", but could be considered.

He said: “Any changes of this magnitude would need careful modelling and an assessment of any unintended consequences that might result, including the possibility of some cases changing from routine to urgent or acute as needs changed.

"A planned reduction in some elective procedures can and does occurs to some extent and an extension of this could be considered."

Dr David Chung, Vice President of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine said more staff, an appropriate number of beds and greater social care provision was a better long-term solution.

He added: “Whilst suspending all routine elective activity at the beginning of every year might relieve some pressures on hospitals, it would be better to plan for predictable seasonal variation across the whole system.

"This might mean doing concentrating on certain types of work at different times of the year to accommodate the effects of winter, including a reduction in service over the festive period. The key thing is to ensure there is the capacity available to cope with the demands placed on the system.

"Patients who are already on long waiting lists for vital treatments, and who are often in pain, should not have to wait even longer to receive planned care."

Chair of BMA Scotland Dr Peter Bennie said: “The priority has to be to find solutions to the underlying pressures faced by the health service, rather than stop-gap measures to get through winter.

“That means developing a clear plan to close the growing gap between available resources and rapidly increasing demand, more concerted efforts to recruit and retain staff, and less focus on short term measures driven by arbitrary targets.”