More patients waiting a year or more for treatment in west Herts hospitals
The data was presented to a meeting of the Trust’s board on Thursday
The number of patients waiting more than a year for treatment at hospitals in west Hertfordshire has increased to 855.
According to national targets 92 per cent of patients should be treated within 18 weeks – with no-one waiting for more than 52 weeks.
But the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic means waiting times have increased for hundreds of patients at hospitals run by the West Hertfordshire Hospitals Trust.
Back in March there were just three patients who had been waiting for treatment at the Trust for more than a year.
But the latest data – presented to a meeting of the Trust’s board on Thursday, November 5, – shows that by September that had rocketed to 855.
And that’s a 186 increase since the previous month (August), when there were 669.
The longest waits are reported to be for for oral surgery, where 254 patients have been waiting for more than a year.
That’s followed by the ear, nose and throat, where there are 178 long-waiters – and then ophthalmology, where there are 137.
And the Trust is already reported to be looking at ‘options to outsource’ in the three specialities with the highest number of long-waiters.
Following the board meeting, the Trust’s chief medical officer Mike van der Watt said that safety was the “top priority”.
And he said that additional measures – as a result of Covid-19 – meant fewer patients could be treated.
“Before the COVID-19 outbreak we reduced the number of patients waiting longer than 52 weeks to single figures,” he said.
“At the start of the outbreak we ceased all but emergency and the most urgent elective surgery and immediately began working closely with a local private hospital so that our patients with the most need could still be seen.
“Around 1,500 patients have had surgery at The Spire Bushey but unfortunately, the number of ‘long waiters’ has crept up.
“We have reinstated a wide range of surgical procedures at Watford and St Albans hospitals, but this has taken time because we have had to develop new ways of working to comply with social distancing and a range of other infection control measures.
“As a result, the number of patients we can treat is much reduced compared to pre-COVID-19.
“Our top priority is always the safety of our patients and so we have worked hard to create the safest environments and practices possible.”
Data presented to the board indicates the proportion of patients being treated within that 18 week target in September at west Herts was just 69.7 per cent. However that is 7.9 per cent higher than the same figure for August.
Mr van der Watt says the Trust acknowledges that it is “frustrating” when surgery is postponed.
And he says waiting lists are closely monitored to prioritise patients “who are likely to suffer the most as a result of any delay”.
“We are doing all we can to keep providing treatment for our non-emergency patients,” said Mr van der Watt.
“The public can play its part in this by self-isolating if their surgery is imminent and by following all the hands, face, space messages.”
.Across the Trust data presented to the Trust board shows the ‘median’ waiting time is 8.5 weeks for treatment.
The median wait time is the number of weeks within which half of waiting patients will have been treated.
And the figure for the Trust is said to be better than the national median average, which is reported to be 14.8 weeks.