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Surgeons are calling for specialist hubs in England to help tackle what they call a "colossal backlog" of non-urgent operations because of Covid-19.

The Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) wants a network of hospital sites focused on routine surgery, such as hip and knee replacements.

The government says it is working "to accelerate the recovery of services".

In March, around five million patients were waiting for surgery - the highest number since modern records began.

More than 436,000 were waiting more than a year, NHS England figures show - compared with just 1,600 before the Covid crisis.

A similar proportion of the population is on waiting lists in Scotland and a higher percentage in Wales and Northern Ireland.

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Prof Neil Mortensen, president of the RCS, said the pandemic has had a devastating impact on surgical services - and that it must not be allowed to happen again.

"Surgery must be available on the NHS all year round, not stop and start," he said, adding that a "New Deal for Surgery" was required to help weather future pandemics.

"If a dangerous new variant of COVID-19 takes hold, or another bad flu arrives in the autumn, we cannot allow surgery to grind to a halt again or waiting lists will become insurmountable."

Prof Mortensen said patients and staff had already adapted to changes required because of the pandemic, such as flexible working and outpatient consultations by phone or video link.

He added that politicians needed to be open to change and accept that services available at their nearest hospital might not be the same as before.

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