46,000 patients on hospital waiting lists for routine treatment

The impact of the pandemic continues to show at county hospitals with tens of thousands of patients waiting for routine treatment, figures have revealed.

The number of patients waiting for routine treatment at county hospitals continues to rise as a result of the pandemic
The number of patients waiting for routine treatment at county hospitals continues to rise as a result of the pandemic

NHS England says that 46,005 patients are waiting for non-urgent elective operations or treatment at county hospitals as of March – 32,445 at Shrewsbury & Telford Hospital NHS Trust (SaTH), and 13,560 at the Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital (RJAH).

Of those 4,114 have been waiting for longer than a year.

The figures, for March, show a major increase in both waiting lists from the previous year, when the the figure stood at 41,678 – 29,651 at SaTH, and 12,027 at RJAH.

It comes as Telford MP Lucy Allan raised the plight of one county resident – who has been waiting two years for an operation – in the House of Commons, calling for more accountability over those waiting for treatment.

The Society for Acute Medicine also said the latest data shows pressure on the NHS nationally is "unsustainable" and needs urgent action from the Government.

One of the county's most senior health officials said that the issues caused by Covid have led to increases in the number of people waiting.

Simon Whitehouse, chief executive designate for the Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin Integrated Care Board, said a number of plans – including the use of private hospitals – are being followed to try and deal with the backlog.

He said: “We are working hard as a health and care system to bring down our waiting lists for planned treatment.

“Our situation is no different to that across the country, and the NHS as a whole has seen significant pressure on its services as a result of the steps we have had to take to respond to the coronavirus pandemic.

"We appreciate that is no comfort to anyone waiting to get the treatment they need, and I assure them that we are doing all we can to get to them as quickly as we can – making sure we prioritise by clinical need so that those who need treatment the most are seen first.

“We continue to see Covid patients within our hospitals, but that does not stop us from progressing and evolving our recovery plans. All of our providers are pulling out all the stops to increase capacity, whilst being considerate to the health and well-being of our own staff. We are also working with independent sector partners to help us see more patients.”

Dr Tim Cooksley, president of the Society for Acute Medicine, said: “The latest set of performance data shows that the new “normal” is at an unacceptably poor level for both patients and staff.

“Pressures are at unsustainable levels and, at months where NHS teams hope for a quieter period, worse performance and standards are dominating the horizon."

He added: “This is an emergency which needs recognition, action and support on an urgent basis; it cannot afford to join the waiting list being endured by so many patients.”

The Department of Health and Social Care said it has provided a record £36 billion over the next three years for the NHS and social care, and launched a plan to tackle the Covid backlog.

A spokesman added: “We recognise the unprecedented pressure NHS staff are under from the pandemic – especially frontline ambulance workers."

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