Thousands of patients waiting more than a year for treatment

Weston and Bristol hospitals

Some non-urgent operations have been put on hold due to the increasing number of hospital patients with Covid-19. - Credit: Mark Atherton and Google

Thousands of patients across Weston and Bristol have been waiting more than a year for treatment after their non-urgent procedures were put on hold.  

At the start of the pandemic in March 2020, only 52 people had waited more than 12 months for treatment with the University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust (UHBW) – by November that figure had hit 2,892, with another 1,500 breaches expected this month.  

The hospital trust has confirmed some non-urgent operations have been put on hold to enable staff to care for the increasing number of people with Covid-19. Some patients are also deferring treatment due to concerns about coronavirus.  

The breaches would normally result in hefty fines, with the trusts and the clinical commissioning group sharing a £5,000 penalty each month for every patient kept waiting more than 52 weeks.  

But NHS England chief operating officer Amanda Pritchard confirmed this week that the financial sanction continues to be suspended in recognition of the unprecedented pressure caused by Covid-19.  

At the UHBW Trust many of the delays relate to dental, paediatrics, general surgery, ophthalmology and cardiac procedures. All urgent emergency and cancer care is still taking place. 

A spokesman for Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire CCG, said: “The coronavirus pandemic has had a big impact on the NHS and has meant pausing some non-urgent routine operations and outpatient appointments during peaks of the virus to allow us to safely care for the rising number of people with coronavirus in our hospitals. 

 “While we continue to provide emergency and cancer provision during this time and work closely with our local independent sector hospitals to maintain some elective surgery, it is not possible to resume previous levels of surgical or diagnostic activity. We are regularly reviewing this position and are putting plans in place over the coming months that look to tackle the backlog. 

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 “The focus of our health care system is currently on ensuring that patients are safe, and treated within clinically appropriate timescales wherever possible.  This has included reviewing and contacting all patients who are waiting for planned procedures, and undertaking remote assessments where appropriate.” 

Between September and December, the trust’s elective services were able to recover to more than 80 per cent of pre-Covid levels of activity. 

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