Waiting times concerns at two Norfolk hospitals

PUBLISHED: 07:34 25 June 2012

Doctors and nurses.

Doctors and nurses.

Archant Norfolk Photographic © 2009

Hundreds of people needing trauma or orthopaedic treatment at a Norfolk hospital are having to wait longer than 18 weeks, according to latest figures.

The news comes as it emerges another of the county’s hospitals is also falling below national standards on waiting lists for the same type of treatment.

In April, the latest figures available, the James Paget University Hospital in Gorleston treated just 67.3pc of its trauma and orthopaedics patients within 18 weeks and the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital just 82.3pc.

The Queen Elizabeth Hospital King’s Lynn is faring much better and treated 91.7pc of trauma and orthopaedic patients, and 94.4pc of patients across all departments within 18 weeks.

Across Norfolk’s three main hospitals thousands of people need this type of treatment every year.

The NHS operational standard is 92pc and the NHS constitution, which sets out rights for patients, says that once referred by a GP for treatment, they should have the right for any non-emergency treatment to start within a maximum of 18 weeks, or the the NHS to take all reasonable steps to offer a range of alternatives if this is not possible.

Trauma and orthopaedics includes patients who have had a serious injury, such as from a fall or road traffic accident, as well as those who need hip and knee replacements or have suffered a fracture.

Across all of its departments, the N&N treated 93.4pc of patients within 18 weeks in April, but the James Paget managed 83.2pc.

The respective figures for the West Suffolk Hospital, in Bury St Edmunds, were both 100pc.

A James Paget spokesman said: “The 18 weeks referral to treatment performance for trauma and orthopaedics has been an area of concern for the trust in recent months. However the local community should be reassured that we have taken steps to resolve these issues.

“We have brought in additional capacity to increase the number of operations and to reduce the time our patients wait to within acceptable limits. Two theatres have been brought back on stream to increase the number of operations we are able to perform, including surgery at weekends.

“The demands of the winter period led to a large number of operations being cancelled and the worst outbreak of Norovirus in 10 years led to several ward closures.

“These factors, combined with high demand in emergency areas and fewer discharges, led to patients having to wait longer for their routine treatments. Although we had planned to reduce the number of operations during that period to have fewer cancellations, demand was far greater than anticipated.”

Dr Jamie Wylie, director of clinical transformation at HealthEast, the GP-led clinical commissioning group, said: “We all want patients in the Great Yarmouth and Waveney area to be treated as quickly as possible.

“HealthEast is working closely with the Paget and with others in the NHS locally to achieve this. We are pleased the Paget is taking this seriously and putting significant measures in place to improve performance for patients.”

Pauline and Peter Crosby, from Ditchingham, are waiting for Mr Crosby, 69, to have a full knee replacement at the James Paget.

He has been on the waiting list for 10 weeks so far, but they said they became concerned when hearing anecdotally and informally from various health professionals how long the waiting lists were.

Mrs Crosby, 62, said: “What I really object to is the dishonesty and that they won’t just tell you how long the waiting list is. I think GPs should know when they refer you and can advise you before you go through the choose and book system.

“I just want other patients to be aware of the waiting lists and to be aware that they can choose to go somewhere with a shorter list under choose and book. People should do their homework before booking.

“I understand the hospital has been through a few difficult months, but I think if they explained to patients they would sympathise.”

The N&N has been trying to bring down its backlog of longest waiting patients, which it said had affected its 18-week performance as only so many patients can be treated at any given time.

Karen Lough, division general manager at the N&N, said: “We are currently treating more patients who have been waiting over 18 weeks, which is in line with clinical priority and fairer to those that have waited the longest.

“Hence our performance on 18 weeks is below 90pc. This is the approach we have agreed with our commissioners as being in the interest of our patients.”

As of the end of April, 1,894 trauma and orthopaedic patients were waiting to start treatment at the James Paget, 3,401 at the N&N and 1,246 at the QEH.

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