Shropshire hospital waiting lists hit record highs amid Covid fallout

NHS waiting lists have reached record highs in Shropshire but bosses say plans are progressing to tackle the huge backlogs.

It comes as £160 million in funding was announced by NHS England yesterday to aid the health service’s recovery after the pandemic.

Trials will take place in several areas of England to find new ways of working to boost the number of planned operations and procedures being carried out.

Virtual wards, 3D eye scanners and at-home antibiotic kits are among the new initiatives to be trialled.

Although health bosses in the county said they were not in the position to bid for funding through the programme.

Dr Julie Davies, director of performance at Shropshire, Telford & Wrekin Clinical Commissioning Group, said: "We are looking at other funding opportunities to help us tackle some of the workforce and capacity challenges we face.

"Recruitment and retention of more staff will be vital to our recovery programme, and it is something we are heavily focussed on.”

She added: “We are working together as a health and care system to rise to the challenge.

"This includes working with the independent health sector to help us with our NHS lists, and securing extra capacity outside of our area where necessary, to ensure that patients are given the opportunity to be seen as quickly as possible.

“We’re also making use of having a specialist centre within our area to help us tackle our orthopaedic waiting lists."

Health bosses say a plan has been produced locally to tackle the issues, with details being work out before it can be published.

However, they have warned it will not be a quick fix and may take years to fully deal with.

Claire Skidmore, interim accountable officer at Shropshire, Telford & Wrekin CCG, said: "There is a plan. It's not published yet.

"There's a lot of data that we have to review and test and confirm with all the hospitals and key players in the system that we can manage that plan."

Latest figures show that in March 3,702 patients had been waiting more than a year to start treatment at Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust, which runs Royal Shrewsbury Hospital and Telford's Princess Royal Hospital.

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At Robert Jones & Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital, near Oswestry, the figure was 2,391.

The number of people in England waiting to start hospital treatment rose to almost five million in March, according to NHS England – the highest number since records began in August 2007.

As Covid patient numbers have fallen at the county's hospitals, staff are reintroducing services that were paused during the pandemic.

They say patients are being prioritised based on medical need, although staff are also working under the constraints of Covid restrictions.

SaTH's interim strategy and planning director Chris Preston said: "Now as the impact of the pandemic is starting to reduce, what we really need now is to refocus our priorities on dealing with some of the issues that affect us as we come out of that period of time.

"That's about restoring our clinical capacity across all of our specialties, getting our elective recovery programme in place, focussing on patients with the highest clinical priority."

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