Politicians and a heath watchdog in the city have warned of people being forced to wait for years in ‘pain and discomfort,’ with no end in sight, after the health secretary revealed the NHS waiting list in England will not start to fall for at least another two years and could even double in size.
The most recent data from NHS England showed 45,230 patients were waiting to start treatment with Portsmouth Hospitals University NHS Trust at the end of November 2021, up from 44,834 people at the end of October.
And 64.7 per cent of patients were treated within 18 weeks (below the NHS operational standard of 92 per cent).
Nationally around six million people are currently on the NHS waiting list for treatment.
Roger Batterbury, chairman of Healthwatch Portsmouth, told The News he was ‘concerned’ that waiting lists have ‘doubled within the last two years.
‘The impact of delays for non-urgent treatment on patients is very significant because it impacts on such a wide range of services that people are waiting to receive,’ he said.
‘Patients waiting for surgery have had a traumatic two years trying to cope as well with the impact of the pandemic. With the talk now of our needing to learn to live with Covid-19 and of moving on with our lives those patients waiting for surgery are simply not able to move on.
‘Healthwatch Portsmouth and the three other local Healthwatch across Hampshire and the Isle of Wight area asked health service planning leads last summer how they would be planning to deliver the ‘catch-up plan’ for elective care that had been announced and what information would be made available for patients while they were waiting to support their needs?
‘We did not feel at the time that a clear plan was being presented and communicated to patients. We are still waiting to receive clarification and the number of patients being affected is growing all the time.
‘We regularly hear from patients in Portsmouth who are waiting for all types of services, both at community level and in hospital. We include this in our feedback when we communicate with health service planners and ask them to provide clear and straight forward information to patients about what they can expect to receive from local services.’
Portsmouth South MP, Stephen Morgan, slammed the government following the announcements on February 8.
He said: ‘After months of dither and delay the Tories have produced a wholly inadequate elective recovery plan. Planned operations are not the only part of the NHS in crisis, but there is little to tackle similar challenges facing primary care, community care, urgent and emergency care and mental health services.
‘The secretary of state has declared a “war on cancer”, yet his party has presided over a mess of spiralling waiting times for over a decade and his latest slogan is not backed up by a plan to recover services. Meanwhile, people in Portsmouth are still being forced to wait months and even years for treatment, often in pain and discomfort. It is unacceptable and will have appalling consequences for patients.
‘Government must provide the staff and support our city needs to give patients access to healthcare as and when they need it.’
But Conservative MP for Portsmouth North, Penny Mordaunt, said: ‘Now we are coming out of the pandemic we must pull out all the stops to get patients access to the treatment they need, as swiftly as possible. I will be looking in detail at how the announcement today will translate locally to enable this catch up to happen.
‘Cancer backlogs should be cleared within a year, but I want to ensure the under-diagnosis that must have also happened is factored into this plan. Key to all of this is ensuring we have a growing and robust workforce in both health and social care and I will be focussing on what I can doing locally to help in that respect.’