Nearly 90,000 operations postponed at Norfolk hospitals in pandemic

Rising numbers of people with Covid-19 are being admitted to Norfolk's hospitals. Picture: Brittany

Almost 90,000 operations have been cancelled because of Covid at Norfolk's three main hospitals - Credit: Brittany Woodman/Sonya Duncan

Almost 90,000 patients have now had operations postponed in Norfolk and Waveney because of the Covid pandemic, the new body taking over the running of the region's health services heard today.

More than 9,000 have been waiting more than a year for routine procedures, says a report to the new Norfolk and Waveney Healthcare Partnership.

Of the 85,966 total some 58,384 are at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH), 14,347 at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) in King's Lynn and 14,235 at the James Paget University Hospital (JPUH) in Gorleston.

Of those waiting more than a year 7,638 are at the NNUH, 1,032 at the QEH and 950 at the JPUH, making a total of 9.620, according to latest validated figures from January.

The report said: "During the peak of the second wave this winter the difficult decision was taken to postpone planned operations and procedures. This was in light of the very serious situation of high infection rates and hospital admissions in Norfolk and Waveney, and across England, and the need to reduce the amount of elective work being done to enable us to have the capacity and to be able to redeploy staff to treat rising numbers of patients with Covid-19."

Denise Smith, chief operating officer at the QEH, was one of the report's co-authors. She told the meeting hospitals had built up significant waiting lists, with significant numbers waiting longer than 52 weeks for treatment.

She said patients who needed treatment within four weeks should be treated first, followed by those who have waited the longest. 

Denise Smith, chief operating officer at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital. Photo: Queen Elizabeth Hospit

Denise Smith, chief operating officer at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital. Photo: Queen Elizabeth Hospital - Credit: Archant

Most Read

She added hospitals would have to be "open and honest" with patients about what could be achieved.

"It's taken us a year to get into this position," she said. "It will take us a lot longer to recover."

Bernard Brett, deputy medical director at the NNUH, said the only way the system would be able to deal with the backlog would be by working together. 

It comes after Sam Higginson, the hospital's chief executive, warned clearing waiting lists would require "a multi-year approach".

Reacting to the figures after the meeting Norwich South MP Clive Lewis said: “This is happening for the same structural reasons that has seen our NHS close to collapse at several points throughout the pandemic. For years there have been too few staff and  ballooning numbers of vacancies and resignations.

"It is said that when you cut social care, it’s the NHS that bleeds and we’ve seen exactly the same grim story of cuts and underinvestment in that sector too. In ten years of this government we’ve gone from having an NHS rated as amongst the most efficient in the world with the highest levels of patient satisfaction to having a health system which is held together by good will and sticking plaster funding. “

The report says the "significant pressure" experienced by Norfolk's hospitals during the second wave of the pandemic is now lessening.

The second wave saw a peak of 800 patients being treated in the NNUH, QEH and JPUH on January 14/15. During the peak of the first wave some 261 were being treated for Covid.

Patricia Hewitt, former health minister, and head of Norfolk and Waveney's healthcare overhaul. Pict

Former health minister Patricia Hewitt, who is the chair of the new integrated care system which will run health services across Norfolk and Waveney - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2017

The partnership is taking over from the previous set-up led by clinical commissioning groups and specialist trusts. It is chaired by Patricia Hewitt, a health minister in the Labour government from 2005 - 2007, and incudes  GP practices, hospitals, community care, social services and mental health teams.

It is one of 42 integrated health systems being set up around the country to encourage different area of the NHS to work together.

Welcoming delegates to Thursday's meeting, Ms Hewitt said: "All of us are here  because we want to make a difference for people in Norfolk and Waveney."

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter