Around 65,000 Lincolnshire people are currently waiting for NHS hospital treatment, around 13,000 more than in March 2020.
In March last year, seven people had waited more than one year for treatment. Now, 3,856 people have been recorded as waiting more than 52 weeks.
Approximately 1,800 of these patients are waiting for treatment in United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust hospitals, and the remainder are waiting for treatment from other providers or out of the county.
In 2013/14, NHS England set an operational standard to ensure that no-one waits more than 52 weeks for treatment. In March 2020, after the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, non-urgent elective activity was postponed to free up inpatient and critical care capacity which has resulted in the increase.
The pandemic has had a huge impact on NHS services’ ability to treat patients, the trust said as it announced a plan to restore services to pre-COVID levels.
To address the lengthy queues experienced by patients waiting for time-critical surgery, providers across the county will introduce changes to its referral system.
A particular focus will be on elective care (planned medical care or surgery not regarded as emergency treatment.)
Once referred to hospital, a patient will receive a letter from the National E-Referral System or from the hospital directly.
If they have not received any correspondence within 4-6 weeks of referral, they can check on the NHS app (free to download) or contact their GP Practice to check they have been referred in the first instance.
Referrals are then reviewed by consultants within the hospital and patients are prioritised according to their clinical condition. Whilst waiting, should a patient’s symptoms deteriorate, the NHS are advising them to contact the hospital they have been referred to so a specialist can review their changing symptoms and their referral letter.
Once a patient is referred, GP Practices cannot help ‘speed up’ referrals or have them dealt with any quicker, however they may be able to support with symptom management whilst they wait for their appointment.
Simon Evans, ULHT Chief Operating Officer said: “We realise that this is a difficult time, especially for those people who are still waiting for treatment, and we apologise for the distress this may have caused. We are doing everything in our power to address this and to introduce initiatives that will make a major contribution to reduce the length of time people are waiting.”