Fall in Shropshire patients waiting over year for treatment

The number of patients who have been waiting more than a year for routine treatment at Shropshire's main hospitals has fallen by hundreds in the last couple of months, health bosses say.

A report to the board of the Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust (SaTH) showed that 33,332 patients were listed as waiting for planned operations and procedures in April, up from 32,674 in March.

At that point, 3,687 patients had also been waiting for at least a year.

But speaking to board members during an online meeting yesterday, the trust's chief operating officer Nigel Lee said that the number waiting more than 52 weeks had since fallen to "around the 3,000 mark".

Waiting list numbers have grown by thousands of patients at the trust over the last year as staff had to be taken away from their normal roles and redeployed to help in the frontline battle against coronavirus.

Mr Lee said: "Those waiting lists after Covid, albeit in line with many other organisations and across the country, are significant. "But we are continuing to make progress, albeit gently as we increase our capacity."

He said a company will also be helping to bring in extra capacity, adding: "What we are trying to do there is just balance the fact that where we have got vacancies or some of our staff have worked extremely hard all through Covid, then simply asking folk to work even more is not necessarily a sustainable method, particularly as these waiting lists are going to take some time to eat into.

Focus

"The patients waiting over 52 weeks is clearly a significant number. This was over 3,500 as at April, that's come down already to just around the 3,000 mark now.

"Throughout all of the work on elective, that covers some of our urgent patients and cancer so all through this there is an absolute focus on clinical prioritisation."

Louise Barnett, chief executive of the trust, which runs Royal Shrewsbury Hospital and Princess Royal Hospital, said: "We're very mindful of the long waiting times for them.

"We are making progress but we are aware that's going to take some time.

"We are working with primary care colleagues to review the way in which we are communicating to ensure people are aware of the position for them, and any support they need in the meantime too."

Dr Catriona McMahon, chair of the trust, added: "The numbers we have in our reports are quite scary and I think we have to think about how we are more public friendly in terms of how we report what these numbers mean and how we engage at the individual level where required, so that people do really understand what might be happening with them."

Health bosses have previously said that the issue of treatment backlogs is being tackled by all health organisations in the county together, and that the solution could see some patients treated outside the area in a bid to get them seen more quickly.

Last month, the NHS announced it will spend £160 million on an initiative to find new ways of tackling the vast backlog of care.

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