Efforts to cut patient waiting times will pay off, council told

Peterborough City Hospital from above

The time that patients waiting for an operation at hospitals in the North West Anglia NHS Foundation Trust must be brought down, Peterborough city councillors were told. - Credit: Terry Harris

The time that patients have to wait for an operation must be brought down. 

That was the message given to members of Peterborough City Council’s adults and health scrutiny committee on July 18. 

Currently, patients can be waiting as much as 52 weeks for an operation, with some very extreme cases waiting as long as 104 weeks. 

Kate Hopcroft, director of planned care for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Integrated Care System, said: “Post pandemic, we’re seeing more patients than ever before coming through the system all seeking operations for various conditions. 

“After each wave of the pandemic, hospital staff and community healthcare officials have stepped up their response to those needs in an effort to bring waiting times down.” 

Ms Hopcroft believes other factors have played a part in staff’s response to waiting times as they try to find a route back into a non-Covid schedule. 

“The net result of this has been some very lengthy waits for some patients across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, with some having to wait over two years for an operation at present which is obviously unacceptable,” she said. 

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“A huge amount of work is now being put into reducing those waiting times so that by the end of July 2022, only a handful of patients will have waited for 104-weeks or more.  

“That will be for personal or clinical reasons, and we are confident that we can bring those times down over the next few months.” 

In September 2021, the Referral to Treatment (RTT) waiting list at North West Anglia NHS Foundation Trust (NWAFT) was 59,548 and, as of May this year, has risen by approximately 8.6 per cent to 64,647. 

The number of patients waiting over 104 weeks peaked in February 2022, but these have been steadily treated so that as of the end of June 2022, NWAFT had a maximum of 10 patients waiting for treatment over two years. 

Six of these are capacity-related, and the remainder are either clinical or patient choice delays. 

The Trust are forecasting that all 104 week waiting patients will have been seen or treated by the end of July 2022. 

Janine Nethercliffe, urological surgeon with NWAFT, said: “Between Covid and global warming we’ve faced quite a lot of challenges at NWAFT of late.  

“But we can assure the members that we are passionate about getting these waiting list numbers down. 

“NWAFT has continued to put plans in place such as outpatient follow-ups, pathway re-designs to support patients as they recover, operating theatre utilisation improving efficiencies.  

“All of which are designed to reduce the overall waiting times which vary according to specialties, some experiencing longer delays then others.” 

Ms Nethercliffe said the most challenging specialities for NWAFT are ear, nose and throat, urology and ophthalmology which have been affected by issues such as infection control measures and workforce. 

“Ophthalmology and urology were also in a challenged position pre-pandemic so the reduction in activity during each wave has compounded the issue,” she added. 

“Other specialties including general surgery, plastic surgery, trauma and orthopaedics and gastroenterology all of which have patients waiting between 26 and 52 weeks.  

“But as with all our long-term waits, we are focussed on reducing these as quickly as possible and our efforts at the current time show this to be working.” 

Committee members noted they had given consideration the information and looked forward to further updates on reduced waiting times at their next meeting on September 27.