More than 36,000 people waiting for routine treatments and operations in Portsmouth
A HOSPITAL trust in Portsmouth is working to increase capacity after ‘surprising’ figures showed more than 36,000 people were waiting for routine treatment - the highest number since records began.
NHS statistics show 36,653 patients were listed as waiting for elective operations or treatment at Portsmouth Hospitals University NHS Trust (PHU), which runs Queen Alexandra Hospital and St Mary’s Community Health Campus, at the end of March.
This was up from 35,948 at the end of February and up from 33,802 in March 2020. It was also the highest figure for the month of March since comparable records began in 2012.
Across England, the number of people waiting to start hospital treatment rose to 4.95 million – the highest total since records began in August 2007.
The Royal College of Surgeons warned the backlog nationally will take years to clear as ‘new patients are presenting daily.’
In a report put together ahead of a PHU board meeting in May, the trust’s chief executive Penny Emerit said managing the ‘clinical risk associated with extended waiting times’ was among her top three concerns.
She said: ‘It will take a considerable amount of time to fully recover to pre-pandemic waiting times for patients, however we are assessing patients’ clinical needs to ensure those requiring the most urgent care receive it as quickly and safely as possible.’
NHS rules state that patients referred for non-urgent treatments under the care of a consultant should start treatment within 18 weeks.
But the figures also show 3,103 patients on waiting lists at PHU at the end of March had been waiting for at least a year, or eight per cent of all those on the waiting list.
A spokeswoman for PHU said: ‘We are working closely with health and social care partners across the Hampshire and Isle of Wight system to support the need to increase capacity and address existing waiting list sizes.
‘During what has been a challenging year for the NHS, PHU has cared for over 4,000 Covid-19 patients while continuing to see as many non-urgent patients as possible. Our clinicians are working to carefully assess patients’ clinical needs so that those requiring the most urgent care receive it as quickly and safely as possible.’
Roger Batterbury, from Healthwatch Portsmouth, urged patients to keep in touch over the issue.
‘Alongside dentistry this is our most common issue that comes in our post bag,’ he said.
‘The trust did its best working through the pandemic and keeping things running.
‘We feel for people and we are working with the trust to find ways to resolve this and communicate with patients to ensure people are on the right waiting list for the right treatments.
‘We are not surprised in the sense we knew that this would probably happen but we weren’t aware what the numbers would be, so it is surprising the levels are as high as they are.’
Portsmouth is one of the trusts that could benefit from cash from an Elective Recovery Fund launched by the government this year, as well as a portion of another £160m grant to tackle waiting times – although it is not known yet how much money will be awarded.
As reported, plans are currently underway to build a new 72-bed ward at QA Hospital in Cosham, as well as a new A&E and multi-storey car park.
Fewer patients were waiting for routine treatment at Solent Trust in March, with 838 patients on the waiting list at the end of March compared to 968 the year before.