Extra theatre sessions helping to clear waiting list backlogs at Shropshire's hospitals

Extra theatre sessions have taken place at Shropshire's two main hospitals in an attempt to try and start to clear significant waiting list backlogs caused by the pandemic, bosses say.

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.

Latest figures show that 3,702 patients had been waiting more than a year to start treatment in March.

But as the number of Covid patients have reduced at Royal Shrewsbury Hospital and Princess Royal Hospital in Telford, access to theatres at RSH was reestablished and 'a drive to increase high priority surgery cases was made', a report to the trust's board says.

It says 'additional activity was undertaken at weekends to ensure the maximum possible reduction in waiting lists, including colorectal, vascular and urology'.

During a meeting of the trust's board yesterday, Nigel Lee, chief operating officer, said: "We still have significant backlogs.

"Because of the capacity we have, and that's both people and physical space, we are needing to prioritise and we are absolutely led clinically on that priority.

"The highest priority patients including cancer patients.

"We are pushing ahead with recovering as much of that as possible and expanding that. "The cancer side is clearly a priority. During part of February the level of critical care meant we needed to use theatres and theatre staff for a period of time, so March was a really big push on re-establishing cancer and doing extra sessions.

"As we increase the numbers of patients treated, and especially those over 62 days, then we are doing the right thing by reducing the backlog in cancer patients, but that has an adverse performance effect.

"The diagnostics side remains vital. We have been lucky to retain mobile capacity for both MRI and CT." He added: "We know we have significant numbers of patients waiting over 52 weeks.

"We are not alone, but it's an area of concern clinically and operationally.

"We are looking at how we balance that."

He said although Covid patient numbers had reduced significantly in March, he warned that the virus has not disappeared.

"Today we still have four patients in our hospitals and two of those are in critical care, so Covid whilst absolutely has reduced has absolutely not gone away," he said.

Director of workforce Rhia Boyode also acknowledged staff at the hospitals whose families are in India and thanked them for their continued support.

She said: "It certainly has been a really challenging time for our colleagues who have left their home country to support the UK with Covid and continue to do so."

It comes as India has said a new variant of the coronavirus first discovered there in March may be linked to a deadly second wave.

Samples containing the "double mutant"- or B.1.617 variant - have been found in several states with high case numbers.

An official with the National Centre for Disease Control said, however, that they had still been unable to fully establish a correlation.

India reported a record 412,000 cases in the space of 24 hours on Wednesday, and 3,980 deaths.

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