Patient waiting times for hospital treatment soar at East and North Herts NHS Trust

Patient waiting times for treatment at hospitals run by the East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust h

Patient waiting times for treatment at hospitals run by the East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust have increased dramatically due to the COVID-19 pandemic - Credit: Archant

Hospital treatment waiting times have rocketed during the COVID-19 pandemic, with a 400 per cent increase in East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust patients waiting more than a year.

In March, the government told every NHS trust to postpone all non-urgent elective operations from April 15 at the latest, for at least three months, to free up capacity and help the service deal with the pandemic.

Latest NHS England figures for the East and North Herts NHS Trust, which runs Stevenage’s Lister Hospital and Welwyn Garden City’s New QEII Hospital, show a 414 per cent increase in the number of patients waiting more than a year for treatment – from 37 in March to 190 in June, an improvement on 209 in May.

The figures also show the number of patients starting treatment within 18 weeks of referral has plummeted from 83.3 per cent in March to 57.9 per cent in May and still further to 49.5 per cent in June.

Services are now open across the NHS and routine tests and planned surgery are cautiously being increased, while maintaining enough capacity to provide services for patients with COVID-19, including in the event of a second peak.

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A spokesman for the NHS Trust said: “While our urgent care, including cancer treatment, has continued throughout the pandemic, there has been a significant impact on waiting times across the NHS.

“Our staff are working incredibly hard to restart services safely, and we are grateful for our patients’ understanding as we prioritise those with the most urgent need.

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“The extra safety and infection control measures mean it will take some time to get our services back to normal, but we are running additional clinics across weekdays and weekends, utilising video consultations, and working in partnership with the independent sector so we can see and treat as many patients as possible.”

The NHS Trust’s elective activity – currently at 56.6 per cent compared to last year – is steadily increasing, but there are concerns fewer patients have been going to A&E for conditions like strokes and heart attacks.

The spokesman said: “The NHS is safe to use.

“It’s vitally important people seek immediate medical help if they have chest pains, symptoms of a stroke, or other life-threatening conditions.”

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