NHS bosses have been urged not to axe non-covid treatments even if there is a second wave, it was reported last night.
Doctors have warned that cancelling non-urgent operations will inflict pain and misery on tens of thousands of patients.
Many were axed in March to ensure hospitals could cope with a flood of seriously ill virus sufferers.
The lockdown has been linked to thousands of avoidable deaths among non-coronavirus patients.
Leading surgeons said the decision had turned the NHS into a ‘Covid-only service’.
Professor Neil Mortensen, the president of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, said: ‘There is a duty to the thousands of patients waiting in need and in pain to make sure they can be treated.
‘The NHS had to stop almost all planned surgery at the beginning of the Covid crisis, and we just cannot let that happen again.
‘Things will need to be done differently in the face of any further spike.’
British Medical Association chairman Dr Chaand Nagpaul told the Guardian: ‘We cannot have a situation in which patients are unable to access diagnostic tests, clinic appointments and treatment which they urgently need and are left stranded.
‘If someone needs care – for example for cancer, heart trouble, a breathing condition or a neurological problem – they must get it when they need it.’
More than a million fewer patients in England had surgery across April, May and June while up to 40,000 could not start cancer treatments.
At the same time, 12,000 more people have died of non-Covid illnesses than would usually be expected in recent months.
It is thought to be linked to unavailability of care, as well as fear of going into hospital. The NHS denied being a ‘Covid-only’ service at the height of the pandemic.