Focusing on inequalities a key part of tackling backlog

A health trust is aiming to tackle issues around the wider inequalities in accessing healthcare after successfully reducing its waiting times.

By David Sedgwick
Wednesday, 23rd June 2021, 8:00 am
Sir James Mackey, Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust’s chief executive.
Sir James Mackey, Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust’s chief executive.

The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in a rise in the number of patients waiting for treatment – with a record 5.1 million people on waiting lists at the end of April this year.

But analysis by LCP’s (Lane Clark & Peacock) Health Analytics team also shows that this increase is spread unequally across different parts of the country.

Now Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust is looking to help prioritise those patients accessing treatment needed as soon as possible.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

Sir James Mackey, the Trust’s chief executive, said: “As Covid-19 hospitalisations have thankfully reduced, we have ensured that we are now focused on enabling patients to access the treatment they need as quickly as possible, but we are aware that we also need to prioritise those that need it most.

“Dr Pearson-Stuttard is a leading and well-respected expert on population health and inequalities, and his expertise will be invaluable in helping us to manage this process, ensuring that we direct our resources in the right places.”

New data shows both Northumberland and North Tyneside Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) are among the 10 with fewest patients waiting for orthopaedics more than 52 weeks – Northumberland’s 143 patients and North Tyneside’s 155 compare favourably with 4,000 in Norfolk and 3,700 in Devon, for example.

Dr Jonathan Pearson-Stuttard, who headed up the research, said: “It is encouraging that both Northumberland and North Tyneside CCGs are in the top 10 for having fewest patients waiting a year or more for these procedures, but we must redouble our efforts to ensure the indirect impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic do not worsen existing health inequalities across the patient population.”

Up to the end of April this year, Northumbria Healthcare had 131 patients waiting more than 52 weeks, representing just 0.56 per cent of the total national waiting list.

The Trust had just one patient who waited more than 18 months and none waiting more than two years.

Sir James said: “This can in part be attributed to our innovative model that we launched in 2015 by opening the first emergency care hospital in the country, the Northumbria (NSECH) in Cramlington.

“While it has resulted in the Trust being among just a handful nationally to continually meet the four-hour standard for patients being seen at A&E, it also meant that during the pandemic, NSECH could be designated as the overall Covid hub and geared up to take extra patients.

"This in turn meant that our other hospital sites could keep elective and non-urgent operations going for as long as possible.

“The other element is of course the hard work and dedication of our staff in ensuring that they continued to provide as much high-quality care as possible during the pandemic, as well as now making every effort to catch up where treatment was disrupted.”

Eliot Sykes, the Trust’s surgical business unit director, said: “I am proud that more than 14,500 procedures and operations have taken place during the pandemic, a phenomenal number which underlines that it was very much business as usual in our hospitals as much as it could be, despite the additional pressures and need for enhanced infection control measures.”