The COVID-19 pandemic has had a big impact on the NHS. Although COVID cases in our hospitals have now reduced we are still having to work in COVID-safe ways. This means that it will take a long time for the NHS to restore services to pre-pandemic levels.

In Lincolnshire, we will work hard to tackle the backlog of patients whose care has been impacted by the pandemic. We need to do this whilst also keeping our patients safe.

Patients are understandably anxious about the length of time that they are having to wait for their hospital appointments. Unfortunately, we are unable to confirm how long the wait may be in many cases.

Hospitals are contacting all patients to understand their current situation and prioritise those in most urgent need. Our hospitals are doing their utmost to ensure patients receive the treatment they require and to resume normal services as soon as possible.

Our hospitals follow very strict rules for preventing all types of infection, including COVID-19. If you need to be admitted for surgery, you will be cared for in a low risk area. All patients who are admitted to this area will need to have had a negative COVID swab test before they are admitted. Staff working in these areas will regularly be tested too, and wear suitable personal protective equipment (PPE).

Visiting is now allowed in most areas of our hospitals but is still subject to some restrictions. All our patients, visitors, and staff should wear hospital-issued face masks when they are in our hospitals.

If you are waiting to be seen as an outpatient or inpatient, and your symptoms have deteriorated, you can contact the hospital you have been referred to for a specialist to review your referral letter and to discuss your changing symptoms (see contact numbers for each hospital). Your GP practice is not able to help with getting your referral dealt with any quicker, however they may be able to support with symptom management if your symptoms have worsened.

We realise that this is a difficult time, especially for those people who are waiting for treatment, and we apologise for the distress this causes. We will do everything we can to address this, and are working on initiatives that will reduce the length of time people are waiting.

We would also like to take this opportunity to assure our patients, carers, and their families that we remain committed to providing the highest quality, safe care for everyone.

Dr Kieran Sharrock, medical director for Lincolnshire's Local Medical Committee