Suspension of operations due to Covid-19 sees more than 16,000 Portsmouth hospital patients waiting longer than 18 weeks for treatment
THOUSANDS of patients have been waiting more than a year for routine healthcare treatment.
NHS data shows that 16,152 patients under Portsmouth Hospitals University NHS Trust on the waiting list for non-urgent elective care have been waiting for more than 18 weeks for their treatment.
That was 51 per cent of those on the list, up from just 17 per cent the previous year.
Health service rules dictate that patients referred for non-urgent consultant-led elective care should start treatment within that time.
However, the trust has pointed out that Queen Alexandra, in common with all hospitals across the country, was asked to suspend non-urgent elective surgery in April and so waiting times were always going to be affected.
It has also said that in June it hit diagnosis and treatment time targets for cancer.
Another 527 patients were on the 18-plus week waiting list at Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust and a further 42 at Solent NHS Trust. These NHS trusts oversee community health, mental health and learning disability services.
NHS trusts are normally expected to make sure no more than eight per cent of patients are left waiting beyond the 18-week maximum target.
Gbemi Babalola, senior analyst at the King’s Fund, said the coronavirus outbreak has seriously hindered the NHS – and will continue to do so for quite some time.
She said: ‘The sheer scale of pent-up demand for healthcare services, and the ongoing challenges facing staff during the pandemic mean there is a long and difficult road ahead.
‘Health and care leaders are already bracing for an intense winter spike in demand, and patients should expect long waits for care to continue for many months and maybe years to come.’
Nationally, 1.9m people were still waiting for treatment after 18 weeks in June – the most for any month since records began in 2007.
NHS trusts across England will receive £300m from the government to upgrade their facilities for the winter months.
Liz Rix, chief nurse at Portsmouth Hospitals University NHS Trust, said: ‘Our organisation, along with every hospital in England, was asked to temporarily suspend all non-urgent elective operations from April 15 to support preparations for a significant increase in patients with respiratory conditions needing our care due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
‘While this has resulted in some individuals waiting longer for routine elective surgery than we would like, the safety of our patients remains our absolute priority.
‘We continue to prioritise urgent and cancer care for our patients and we achieved all of our waiting time targets for the diagnosis and treatment of cancer in June.
“We have a plan to safely increase the volume of elective activity based on clinical need and we continue to clinically scrutinise delayed appointments to ensure that we minimise any risk to our patients. We reduced our waiting list in 2019/20 and that reduced size has been maintained.
‘We continue to work with patients and our health and care partners to agree the most appropriate way for conditions to be managed. In delivering our recovery programme we are doing all we can to increase capacity for routine elective patients while maintaining patient safety and following all national guidance to reduce the risk of Covid-19 transmission.’
An NHS spokesman said: ‘Now that the NHS has managed the first wave of coronavirus, there is an important job to do to help people whose planned care was postponed to protect their own safety, and that’s exactly what local health services are doing, while also remaining ready for any future increase in Covid cases.’