Anxiety and pain for patients as thousands are left waiting more than a year for help
- Credit: PA
Thousands of people have been waiting for more than a year for operations in Norfolk, as the health service continues to count the cost of the pandemic.
NHS figures for September show 4,595 patients waiting for more than 12 months for treatment to start at the county’s hospitals, compared to just 93 at the start of the pandemic. That is a rise of almost 5,000pc.
The Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH) had 3,755 patients waiting for more than a year, with only five other hospitals in the country in a worse position.
A spokesman for said it was prioritising the most urgent cases, and thanked patients for their patience.
“We are doing everything we can to create additional capacity wherever able, including carrying out routine procedures at weekends and utilising theatre space to treat NHS patients at Spire Norwich,” he added.
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At the James Paget University Hospital (JPUH) in Gorleston, 439 patients had waited for longer than a year in September, up from none in March and 4 in April.
Chief operating officer Joanne Segasby said: “Our teams are working extremely hard to provide care to patients with a huge range of conditions, including Covid-19.
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“Our focus continues to be on those who require emergency care and those who have been clinically prioritised on the waiting list.”
The Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) in King’s Lynn has also seen long waits for operations soaring since March, with figures rising from zero to 401 in seven months.
Denise Smith, chief operating officer, said the trust was working hard to reduce the waiting times, after most routine surgery was suspended during the height of the pandemic.
The chief of Healthwatch Norfolk Alex Stewart said changes during the pandemic had “inevitably led to rapidly growing waiting lists”.
Meanwhile, new data released on hospital performances continues to show the impact the virus has had on cancer care in the county.
A third of women in Norfolk with suspected breast cancer are waiting more than the target of two weeks to see a specialist.
Speaking to this paper in October, breast cancer patient Amy Parkin, 33, from Blofield, described waiting for treatment as a “whole new level of anxiety”.
“There’s this thing inside you and you’re terrified it’s going to get worse,” she added.
The QEH and the JPUH both met the two-week target for September.
A spokesman for the NNUH said: “Work is ongoing in a number of areas of the trust to improve and expand cancer care, including an improved breast cancer unit as part of the Boudicca Appeal, the new North Norfolk Macmillan Centre at Cromer and District Hospital and the upcoming launch of a mobile cancer treatment unit.”
All three Norfolk hospitals missed their 95pc targets for cancer patients to receive their first round of treatment within two months of diagnosis.
At the NNUH, 37pc of patients waited more than two months for cancer treatment to start.
Cancer patients at the JPUH fared little better, with 36pc missing the two-month target, while the best performing hospital was the QEH were 16pc of patients missed the target.
The QEH’s Denise Smith said the suspension of most outpatient-based endoscopy and routine cancer screening programmes led to inevitable delays in cancer treatment, but said the trust had recovered and was continuing to diagnose and treat cancer patients as quickly as possible.
Meanwhile, A&E stats for September show levels largely back to pre-Coronavirus levels in all three hospitals, with the expectation of A&E attendances at the NNUH.
All three Norfolk trusts missed the target of seeing A&E patients within four hours, with the JPUH faring best at 79.9pc.
At the QEH, 76.5pc of patients were seen within four hours, while the NNUH managed a rate of 71.9pc – an improvement on last year’s figure of 62.9pc for the same month.
Sam Higginson, NNUH chief executive, said improving A&E performance was a “top priority”.
He added: “We want to build on the progress our ED team has made and have started an urgent and emergency care improvement programme to identify and put in place initiatives to improve flow and discharge processes throughout the whole hospital.”