Lockdown has left thousands more Derbyshire patients waiting longer for operations

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Nearly 3,000 people are now set to be waiting a year for hospital treatment or operations in Burton, Chesterfield and Derby.

This is five times the number reported at the end of June and an enormous increase on the usual level of patients waiting 52 weeks for treatment, which before lockdown was typically in the single digits or non-existent.

The staggering surge in ‘long-waiters’ has been caused by almost all operations being cancelled during full lockdown.

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Arduous efforts to catch up with an ever-increasing number of people on the waiting list have been hampered by the need for social distancing and the wearing of personal protective equipment (PPE).

Around 300 patients have been waiting more than a year for operations at Chesterfield Royal HospitalAround 300 patients have been waiting more than a year for operations at Chesterfield Royal Hospital
Around 300 patients have been waiting more than a year for operations at Chesterfield Royal Hospital

The key affected area for elective surgeries is orthopaedics – including hip and knee operations.

Patients requiring treatment for cancer have been and continue to be prioritised.

Zara Jones, planning lead for Joined-Up Care Derbyshire, which oversees all NHS services in the county and city, revealed the number of people waiting a year for treatment.

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At a Derby City Council scrutiny committee, she showed a chart displaying 2,509 people waiting 52 weeks for treatment at the University Hospitals of Derby and Burton NHS Foundation Trust as of the week ending October 2.

This is up from 45 in the week to March.

Meanwhile, there are now 298 patients waiting 52 weeks for treatment at the Chesterfield Royal Hospital as of the week to October 2, up from zero in the week to March 20.

Ms Jones said that around 40 per cent of the people on the waiting list are awaiting trauma and orthopaedics treatments or operations.

She also highlighted that there is also a ‘unidentified need’ on top of this ‘as parts of the population is understood not to have presented for health care’ – avoiding NHS services due to Covid-19 concerns.

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A further slide Ms Jones showed said: “Waiting lists will not be reduced unless the NHS can work at greater than 100 per cent of activity.

“Whilst social distancing measures are required to be in place our capacity to deliver is constrained.”

Dr Robyn Dewis, the city council’s public health director, said during the meeting: “The NHS has been working very hard to get those waiting lists down but in reality there is a lag in those waiting lists from the period in time in which activity was not being taken (during lockdown).

“On top of that, even managing to get to 90 per cent or 95 per cent activity, you’re still not catching up, there’s still an accumulation of cases and it is going to be an incredible challenge going into winter around how to manage that situation.”

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Sharon Martin, chief operating officer at the Derby and Burton hospital trust, said: “As seen at other NHS Trusts nationwide, we have unfortunately seen an increase in the number of patients experiencing long waits for non-urgent procedures, as Covid-19 has required us to reduce numbers of elective cases.

“Specialties that undertake the majority of our routine procedures, for example orthopaedics, have been impacted by this the most.

“This has sadly meant that patients have had to wait longer for more routine surgeries, like hip and knee operations, than we would like them to.

“Covid-19 has affected our services in a number of different ways and has required us to prioritise those patients who need urgent care, such as those undergoing treatment for cancer.

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“Our staff are working really hard to restore our services and we are doing everything that we can to ensure our patients receive the treatment they need as quickly as possible.”

Angie Smithson, chief executive at the Chesterfield Royal Hospital trust, said: “Across the country hospitals are recovering and restoring services paused by the COVID-19 incident response.

“Consequently some of our patients are also waiting longer for surgery, as managing COVID meant fewer operations could take place.

“Right now around 300 people in north Derbyshire have been waiting more than 52 weeks for their surgery at Chesterfield Royal Hospital, including people who need orthopaedic operations like hip and knee replacements.

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“It’s not a position we want for our patients and we are working incredibly hard to restore timely routine surgery, meet the ‘normal’ demands of autumn and winter and manage a rising number of urgent Covid-19 admissions.

“The staff in our hospitals are doing all they can to meet this combination of challenges, and ensure that everyone receives safe care.

“Social distancing, pre-operative isolation and extra cleaning routines are all impacting on our surgical capacity, but we absolutely appreciate that for our patients what we may call a non-urgent operation is still a life-changing one.”

“Our medical teams are following-up all patients currently on any waiting list.

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“We are contacting patients, reviewing their current position and keeping them up-to-date as much as we can.

“Throughout the pandemic those needing critical and life-saving surgical procedures, including cancer surgeries, have had that treatment and continue to do so.

“We are now prioritising patients awaiting less clinically urgent surgery, assessing each individual and taking account of any recent deteriorations in their condition.

“We are making excellent progress in unprecedented circumstances thanks to the incredible dedication of all our staff.”

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In July, the Derby and Burton trust said it plans to expand its capacity with new capital projects including a new orthopaedic treatment centre at the London Road Community Hospital in Derby.

This will, it said, help in ‘mitigating waiting list growth and managing long wait patients’.