Northampton General Hospital bosses have "robust plans" to tackle record waiting lists

Charities and health organisations warn Covid pandemic is having "catastrophic" impact on NHS services

Monday, 19th April 2021, 9:17 am
Updated Monday, 19th April 2021, 9:18 am

Northampton General Hospital bosses have "robust plans" in place to tackle record number of patients waiting more than a year for routine treatment.

Charities and health organisations are warning the Covid-19 pandemic is having a "catastrophic" impact on hospital services as numbers of patients across England waiting to start treatment hits new highs.

NHS statistics show 759 patients listed for elective operations or treatment at NGH at the end of February had been waiting for at least 12 months – four per cent of all those on the waiting list and the highest February figure since records started in 2012.

Northampton General Hospital
Northampton General Hospital

The current figure has since fallen to 655 patients waiting more than 52 weeks.

But NGH chief operating officer, Jo Fawcus, said staff redeployed to deal with the surge in Covid patients are now back in theatres and working hard to reduce the backlog.

She added: “At the start of the pandemic all hospitals across the country, including our own, had to pause routine operations in order to prepare for a large influx of patients seriously ill with Covid-19.

“Theatre staff were some of the first redeployed to the front line to run expanded intensive care facilities.

“While we have continued to perform emergency operations – including cancer operations – throughout the pandemic, less high priority work has had to be paused.

“Inevitably this has led to a backlog of patients waiting longer than they normally would and our teams have been supporting patients with concerns about this.

“The good news is that now, after passing the second wave of the pandemic, we are able to redeploy staff back to theatres and ramp up our capacity to give our patients the operations they need.

“We have to be mindful though that many of our theatre staff have worked incredibly hard during the pandemic, under some very stressful conditions, and many will feel tired and need support.

“Therefore we are phasing in our return to normal business with the support of the private sector and by employing additional temporary staff – for example where we are putting on additional weekend theatre lists.

“Local people should be assured we do have robust plans in place bring our waiting lists back down and return to a more normal and timely service.”

A total of 4.7million were waiting to begin treatment at the end of February 2021 - the largest figure since records began in August 2007, according to NHS England data.

The number of people waiting more than a year to start treatment was 387,885 in February — compared to just 1,613 in February 2020.

NHS rules say patients referred for non-urgent consultant-led elective care should start treatment within 18 weeks.

The chief executive of NHS Providers, Chris Hopson, admitted it took take up to five years to clear the backlog and warned the government needs to help avoid a funding crisis as hospitals play catch-up.

He told the BBC "It's very striking when I talk to trust chief executives – particularly those who have served for a long time – they say it's beginning to feel like the early 2000s when there were far too many people on waiting lists, for years not months.

"The solution then was five successive years of real terms NHS funding increases of over seven per cent a year. That's double the amount that's currently being proposed for NHS funding this time round.

"We're clear in the NHS that we have a responsibility to get through this by doing all we can – by increasing capacity, growing our workforce, finding innovative ways of treating people, and increasing efficiency. But government needs to play its part as well."