N&N operations waiting list soars from 93 to 823
PUBLISHED: 06:20 22 July 2020 | UPDATED: 11:47 22 July 2020
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Almost 1,000 patients in Norfolk are waiting more than a year for treatment as the coronavirus crisis plays havoc with routine surgery.
Between March and May, the number of patients waiting at least 12 months for treatment soared by 900pc to 954.
At the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital it leapt from 93 to 823.
One patient, who has been waiting for a hip operation for just under a year, said the waits were creating a “time bomb” of other serious health problems.
“The pain is indescribable,” he said.
The worst-hit area is orthopaedics and trauma with 249 patients on the list for more than 12 months, and just a third seen within the target time of 18 weeks in May.
Hospitals are dealing with a massive backlog of routine operations after non-emergency surgery was halted during the pandemic.
And although surgery has started again, they are not running at full capacity.
At the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King’s Lynn, the number of patients waiting more than a year rocketed from zero before lockdown to 111 in May.
At the James Paget it rose from 0 to 20.
A Norwich patient, who was meant to have a hip replacement at the NNUH in October, said the waits were destroying people’s lives.
“My health has been massively impacted,” he said. “I fear I will have to deal with morphine addiction once I finally get it done.
“The pain stops me being able to live my life and the worst thing is not knowing when it will stop.”
The 58-year old added: “It impacts your wellbeing
“Something that can be fixed with a 45-minute operation will potentially end up with me having long-term health problems.
“It is a very expensive, long-term vicious circle.”
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NHS data also shows a 60pc surge in patients waiting longer than the target of 18 weeks in May, with just over half treated in that time.
There are now more than 32,000 people waiting more than 18 weeks for treatment.
Alex Stewart from patients’ group Healthwatch Norfolk said they had been told waiting lists may not return until pre-pandemic levels until 2024.
“People are going to have to wait longer and while that is not good, we will have to look at alternative ways to manager people’s condition.”
He said that although capacity was increasing again, fear of a second peak was holding it back.
Melanie Craig, chief officer of Norfolk and Waveney Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “This is clearly distressing for those people, it is unacceptable, and we apologise for this.
“Right now, staff in our hospitals are working incredibly hard to increase the number of people they can treat.
“This is a priority for the NHS here and across the country, bearing in mind that coronavirus is still circulating and will do for a long time to come.”
Sam Higginson, NNUH chief executive, said coronavirus had caused a “significant impact” on waiting times and thanked people for their patience.
“We have been prioritising the most urgent and cancer related procedures since we restarted surgery at NNUH and procedures have also been taking place thanks to the partnership with Spire Norwich,” he said.
But he added it would be “some time” before the volume of surgeries were back to pre-Covid levels because of extra safety measures.
Surgery restarted at the end of May at the NNUH and the hospital said it had carried out 400 operations in June.
For orthopaedics, a new surgery for hand and feet has been set up at Cromer hospital.
Denise Smith, chief operating officer at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital said its surgeries were working at 50pc capacity so they could follow social distancing and be kept clean.
“All patients on our waiting list are being clinically reviewed to ensure those with the most urgent medical need are seen first,” she said.
The number of people waiting longer than 18 weeks for hospital treatment in England is now around 1.45 million.
Professor Neil Mortensen, president of the Royal College of Surgeons, said earlier this month that suspending surgery had placed a “time bomb” under NHS waiting lists.
“That time bomb has now detonated, with the numbers of those waiting more than a year for treatment spiralling out of control,” he said.
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