Scan waiting lists across Hampshire hospitals rise due to Covid-19 pressures

MORE than 6,000 people across the county have been left waiting more than six weeks for potentially life-saving scans after delays to non-Covid NHS services during the pandemic.

Thursday, 17th December 2020, 7:00 am
The BBC Shared Data Unit found at least 4.4m less diagnostic imaging scans were carried out in England in the six months between April and September 2020, compared to the same period in 2019.

Health bosses have said the increase is down to the pressure of the Covid-19 pandemic on staff, resources and the need for inpatient capacity.

One in five people were waiting more than six weeks for scans at Portsmouth Hospitals University NHS Trust in October – a 17 per cent increase from the same month last year.

Solent NHS Trust saw a 25 per cent increase in patients waiting for MRI and ultrasound scans.

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Dan Baylis, chief medical officer at Solent NHS Trust, said: ‘Between December 2019 and April 2020, 98 per cent of our people who needed an MRI or ultrasound scan received one within the national target timeframe of six weeks.

‘Since April, the Covid-19 pandemic has created unprecedented challenges on health services and waiting times have increased. Every effort is being made to reduce the backlog and minimise waiting times, whilst ensuring high priority patients are seen as quickly as possible.’

The BBC Shared Data Unit found at least 4.4m less diagnostic imaging scans were carried out in England in the six months between April and September 2020, compared to the same period in 2019.

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Talking about the national picture, Dr William Ramsden, vice president of the clinical radiology faculty for the Royal College of Radiologists, said: ‘You have to bear in mind diagnostics and radiology had a pretty tough workforce problem before the pandemic. Some places were pretty short of staff and they were likely to be impacted pretty hard when things got tough.

‘I think people have done heroically if I’m honest - people have gone the extra mile. However, the stress in the system and the previous issues have made us accumulate a backlog. I just hope we can get over that as soon as we can.’

Retired Royal Navy Officer Colin Brooks from Bedhampton is one patient at Queen Alexandra Hospital who is praising staff for the help they gave him after he had a heart problem in October.

The 75-year-old said: ‘The treatment I received was brilliant and I was discharged the next day on medication. I was then booked in for an echocardiogram on November 13 and well looked after.

‘The NHS is clearly under pressure, under staffed and underfunded but this has not stopped staff working flat out to deliver.’

Cancer Research UK has raised concerns about those potentially missing out on early diagnosis of illnesses through imaging scans.

Dr Jodie Moffat, Cancer Research UK’s head of early diagnosis, said: ‘GPs and NHS staff have worked incredibly hard during this challenging year to manage the increased strain Covid-19 has put on an already stretched system.

‘But many patients are still a long way off receiving the swift cancer diagnoses that will give them the best chance of being treated successfully, and worryingly we don’t yet know what the long-term impact on cancer stage and survival will be.’

The waiting list figures, released by NHS England, were for 15 types of diagnostic imaging scans including MRI, computed tomography, DEXA Scan, colonoscopy and gastroscopy.

University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust had a 29 per cent increase in patients waiting over six weeks in October 2020 compared with October 2019;and Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Practice Plus Group Southampton both saw a 22 per cent increase.

Practice Plus Group Portsmouth only saw a one per cent increase and Southern Health NHS had just a three per cent increase.

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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