Speaking at the public board meeting on January 27, chief executive Sir James Mackey said: “We have no patients waiting more than two years, as there are elsewhere, and around 25 to 30 waiting more than one year, with the team trying to work through that and get them into treatment as quickly as possible.
"If it wasn’t for the Omicron wave, it’s likely that there would have been nobody waiting more than a year by now.
“Our referral to treatment (RTT) performance, which is the main national measure, is the best in the country and is edging towards 90%, despite a slight dip in the first two weeks of January.”
In December, the trust’s RTT measure shows that 88% of all patients waited fewer than 18 weeks from their initial referral to starting treatment.
Reflecting on the winter more generally, Sir James added: “It’s been a pretty difficult couple of months with the Omicron wave adding to usual winter pressures.
"The main concern has been staffing and absence, not just for us but in the wider health and care sector.
“Despite that, we have the best performance in England in a number of metrics, although this is not quite where we want it to be.
"However, the situation does seem to be easing now, and we are hopefully heading in the right direction.
“We must recognise the efforts of staff at all levels across the organisation, because everyone has really pulled together, and I would like to thank everyone for their hard work.
“Our staff absence has not been at levels seen elsewhere and that shows the willingness of staff to go further and not let each other down. We now need to give staff time to recover from a resilience and wellbeing point of view.”
The team effort at Northumbria Healthcare during the winter so far has been reflected in patients’ views of their care, with the December score from the trust’s real-time patient experience measurement the third highest on record – an incredible achievement during an unprecedented period of pressure.
In addition, for the third quarter of 2021, 96% of inpatients rated their care as good, very good or excellent, while the figure for outpatients was 98%.
Board members also discussed the annual report on education, reflecting on a period which has included the trust welcoming its first students on placement from the new medical school at Sunderland University.
Executive medical director Jeremy Rushmer said: “The team has done an absolutely fantastic job in an extremely difficult time to keep the medial education show on the road. The commitment to excellence and the feedback they provide to us is superb.
“It puts us in a really good position and we are constantly striving to be the medical education provider of choice for the region.”