Thousands left waiting more than a year for treatment at Shropshire hospitals in wake of pandemic

The number of patients who have been waiting more than a year for treatment at Shropshire's main hospitals surged to new heights in February as demand for critical care services peaked, new reports have revealed.

Towards the end of the month saw the highest level of patients in the critical care units since the start of the first Covid wave, health chiefs will be told tomorrow.

Waiting lists at the Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust (SaTH) have grown for patients awaiting planned operations and procedures, as staff were redeployed to help battle coronavirus on the frontline.

Bosses say those with urgent and life-threatening conditions are prioritised, but latest figures show that 3,456 patients had been waiting more than a year to start treatment in February.

This had risen from 1,932 in December.

A new report to the trust's board, which meets online tomorrow, said: "The volume of 52 week breaches is now increasing at a significant rate.

"The very limited outpatient and elective admitted capacity that is available is being prioritised for urgent and cancer pathways. This means that clinically routine patients now have a significant wait.

"The reduction of this backlog will need to be addressed at specialty level.

"In some specialties this may take more than 12 months to recover."

In a Covid-19 report to the board, SaTH's chief operating officer Nigel Lee said the largest wave of Covid admissions continued into February and later in the month saw the highest level of patients in the critical care units since the start of the first wave.

He added: "The impact on elective activity (including cancer) remained significant; patients continue to be clinically prioritised, with priority one maintained, and priority two including cancer cases also maintained as much as possible.

"All patients delayed in mid-February have now been treated or have dates planned, and SaTH has added additional weekend theatre sessions during March and April to clear any urgent backlogs.

"As Covid levels reduce in March, a phased reintroduction of services will be carried out."

The number of Covid patients being cared for at Royal Shrewsbury Hospital and Princess Royal Hospital in Telford has reduced significantly since the winter period.

Latest NHS England figures show there were six patients with coronavirus at the hospitals, which are run by SaTH, as of last Tuesday.

Hospital waiting lists have also grown across the country during the pandemic.

NHS figures show 4.59 million people were waiting to start hospital treatment at the end of January – the highest number since records began in August 2007.

The number waiting more than 52 weeks to start hospital treatment stood at 304,044 in the same month – the highest number for any calendar month since January 2008.

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