How coronavirus hit Northumberland hospital appointments

Disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic led to over 80,000 fewer outpatient appointments in Northumberland last year, new figures show.

Friday, 1st October 2021, 6:12 pm
Updated Sunday, 3rd October 2021, 2:53 pm
Northumbria Healthcare Trust's Specialist Emergency Care Hospital at Cramlington

NHS Digital data shows Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust still managed to deliver 471,065 appointments in the year to March – 82,430 fewer (15%) on the previous year, when 553,495 were scheduled.

The figures also show that around 93% of the appointments booked went ahead.

The remainder were either not attended or cancelled by the patient.

Nicky Moon, Northumbria Healthcare’s deputy director with responsibility for outpatients, said: “Providing the best care to our patients is always our top priority and our staff have worked extremely hard during the pandemic to continue to do that.

"Even at the height of the first wave last April, we carried out more than 18,000 outpatient appointments, which rose to more than 30,000 by July. This year, between April and August, a total of almost 180,000 appointments have taken place.”

“Thanks to ongoing staff efforts and a number of innovations, our performance in terms of making sure patients are seen as quickly as possible is among the very best in the country.”

Sarah Scobie, deputy director of research at the Nuffield Trust, said the number of outpatient appointments partially recovered in the summer, however ongoing infection control measures meant the NHS was still struggling to see as many patients as it did pre-pandemic.

She said: "In response to the cancellation of other services and fewer referrals into the health system from GPs, the NHS managed to shift many outpatient appointments to remote consultations to ensure that those patients most in need could be seen while protecting them from the continuing risks of Covid-19.

"The knock-on effect of these cancellations is that more people have been left waiting longer for appointments to diagnose and treat illness, potentially making treatable conditions worse."

She added that waiting lists – already at 4.5million patients before the pandemic – could grow “significantly further” if cancellations are made this winter.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokeswoman said: “The pandemic has put enormous pressures on the NHS, but we are committed to ensuring people get the treatment they need. We have provided record investment to tackle the backlog.”