Chesterfield Royal Hospital aims to restore urgent surgical capacity by end of June
Chesterfield Royal Hospital is expecting to return to normal levels of urgent surgical activity by the end of June, restoring crucial services which have been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.
It is hoped the hospital will be back to 75 per cent of its pre-pandemic theatre capacity by the end of April, before returning to full capacity the following month.
The estimate is based on Chesterfield Royal Hospital NHS Foundation Trust’s experience of restoring urgent surgery following the first wave of coronavirus, with the aim of restoring less urgent surgery to pre-pandemic levels by the end of September.
Staff have been forced to temporarily stop or delay some services due to the pandemic to ensure capacity for treating Covid patients and maintain clinically essential services.
This has led to an increase in the number of people waiting more than 52 weeks for a range of operations – including hip and knee replacements – with the latest figures revealing there were just over 68,000 Derbyshire patients on waiting lists for these operations at the end of January 2021.
Nearly nine per cent of those were waiting over 52 weeks compared to February 2020 when there was just one patient facing that wait.
Angie Smithson, Chief Executive of Chesterfield Royal Hospital and Executive Lead for the Planned Care Steering Group, said: “We know many people have waited patiently during the pandemic and will now want to know when they will get their planned surgery.
"Now that the second wave is receding we are working hard to carefully restore all of our clinical services to meet the needs of those who are waiting.
"We are continuing to prioritise those in most urgent need – such as patients with cancer – with a view to seeing and treating them as soon as we can and are doing our utmost to ensure patients get the treatment they require as soon as possible.
"However, we believe it may be one year, or possibly two, before we are able to fully return to the waiting list position we had prior to the pandemic.
“We recognise there will be many patients listed for planned procedures who have now waited for a long period for their treatment. We will come to them as soon as we can once we have been able to care for those with the most urgent clinical needs.
“If there is anyone who is awaiting contact, or whose condition has deteriorated significantly since their initial contact, then they should contact their hospital clinician or GP.”
The Trust said that all patients have been kept under constant review to ensure that those whose condition has deteriorated due to the longer waits are being treated.
Dr Steve Lloyd, GP, Medical Director of NHS Derby and Derbyshire Clinical Commissioning Group, added: “There have been a number of occasions over the last few months where there were more patients with COVID-19 in our hospitals than at any point during the first wave of the virus.
"This has had an impact on our ability to restore services as it has for other NHS Trusts nationwide and healthcare systems in Europe.
"As NHS Chief Executive, Simon Stevens, has said, as the number of patients with COVID rises, the ability of the NHS to respond to patients with non-COVID issues reduces.
"Inevitably this has meant our capacity for elective surgery has been less than it would ordinarily be, but thanks to the determination of staff, routine surgery has continued which is very different to the position during the first wave.
“Our workforce is central to our ability to be able to restore theatre capacity. The pandemic has had a huge impact on our workforce, both physically and mentally, and so supporting the health and wellbeing of our staff is going to be incredibly important as we work to deliver our restoration and recovery plans.
"Alongside supporting our health and care staff we also have to be mindful of other factors that could have a bearing on our plans for restoration; factors such as possible increases in COVID-19 activity following the return to schools and restrictions being eased over the coming months, increases in non-elective (urgent) care and possible requests for mutual aid requirements to support critical care.
“The best way to ensure the NHS can do what it needs to do is to continue to do everything we can to see that the downward trend in COVID-19 infection rates, serious illness and deaths continues.
"The rollout of the COVID-19 vaccination programme and people’s ongoing efforts in the third national lockdown is making a huge difference, however, I must stress that the health and care system in Derby and Derbyshire is still under very significant pressure and will continue to be so for some time yet.
"That is why it is so important that we all continue to play our part by following government guidelines and go the right NHS service when we need treatment.”
Clinically-essential services have been maintained in Derbyshire throughout the pandemic and provision has been reviewed by staff, allowing them to temporarily stop or adjust some services in line with the rest of the NHS.
This has enabled the NHS in Derbyshire to release extra capacity and add resilience where it was needed the most to care for people hospitalised with coronavirus.
However, the ability to restore services has been hampered by periods out of lockdown when the virus increased causing a rise in the number of hospital admissions.
This was most prominent during January 2021, when intensive care units in Derbyshire were looking after 200 per cent more patients than usual and three times the number of Covid patients were hospital beds in the county compared to the first wave.