Virus sparks longer hospital waiting lists in Northumberland

The coronavirus pandemic has left a third of hospital patients waiting longer than the NHS target times for treatment in Northumberland.

By Katie Williams
Friday, 18th September 2020, 11:20 am
Coronavirus has hit the number of routine operations being done at Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust
Coronavirus has hit the number of routine operations being done at Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust

New NHS data shows 33% of patients on the list for elective procedures at Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust at the end of July – 6,472 people – had been waiting longer than the national target time of 18 weeks.

That was eight per cent up on the same month last year.

NHS trusts are normally expected to make sure no more than eight per cent of patients are left waiting beyond the 18-week maximum target but non-urgent elective operations – such as hip and knee replacements – were suspended during the height of lockdown to free up beds for coronavirus patients.

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Nationally, 2.2 million people (47%) were still waiting for treatment after 18 weeks in July – the highest number for a single month since records began in 2007.

Some 83,000 patients had been waiting for over a year, the most for any month in more than a decade.

With colder weather approaching, experts are warning that the NHS must be winter-proof to prevent seasonal flu and further Covid-19 outbreaks from bringing routine surgery to a halt again.

Professor Neil Mortensen, president of the Royal College of Surgeons, said patients who have been waiting months for treatment "cannot afford to wait until next spring".

He added: “We urgently need to build up our hospital reserves if we are to see this winter through.

"Flu, together with continuing local Covid-19 outbreaks, must not bring surgery to a standstill again.”

Meanwhile, the Society for Acute Medicine has called on the Government to “publish full winter crisis planning proposals which include investment into staffing and estates to cope”.

Saffron Cordery, deputy chief executive of NHS Providers, said the focus should not be solely on what Covid-19 stopped the NHS from doing, and called for the hard work of frontline staff to be recognised.

She added: “We are in a much better place than many would have predicted a few months ago.

“The recovery from the peak of the pandemic was always going to require step by step increases in activity and the NHS is well on the way to restoring services.”