An investigation has warned that long waiting lists for hospital treatment are having a “disastrous effect on patients”.
And the Health Trust University Hospitals Birmingham, which runs hospitals in Birmingham and Solihull, has the largest waiting list in the country.
The cross-party House of Commons Health Committee warned today (January 6) that there are more than 5.8 million patients nationwide awaiting treatment, with 300,000 waiting more than a year. Committee chair Jeremy Hunt, Conservative MP and former health secretary, said: “To deal with the backlog, the NHS will be able to deliver a little more than it does on a day-to-day basis, until the government lifts the scale of the staffing crisis. NHS, and immediately develops a long-term plan to correct the issue.”
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NHS figures show the hospital trust with the largest backlog is University Hospitals Birmingham (UHB). The figures reflect the size of the trust, which has treated over 20,000 Covid patients since the health crisis began – more than any other hospital trust in the country.
A total of 184,171 are waiting to be treated, and 29,912 patients have been waiting for more than a year. The Trust runs Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Good Hope Hospital, Heartland Hospital and Solihull Hospital.
This problem has persisted in the hospital trust for months. A report to the trust’s directors submitted by the chief operating officer and strategy director warned in November: “Due to the cancellation of elective inpatient admissions and outpatient appointments during the pandemic, the trust’s waiting list has grown rapidly and has There has been a decline in waiting time performance with large numbers of patients now waiting longer than 52 weeks from referral to treatment.”
The report also highlighted the increase in the number of canceled operations, saying: “Cancellations continue to significantly impact performance as a result of the impact of COVID-19.”
However, UHB is not alone. The waiting list for the Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs West Bromwich’s Sandwell Hospital and Vinson Green City Hospital, is 52,167, while the Birmingham Women’s and Children’s NHS Foundation Trust has a waiting list of 19,047.
The delay is partly due to the need to prioritize COVID patients. At its peak, the UHB had 1,067 COVID-19 patients, with over 200 in intensive care units (ITUs). Today the trust 410 COVID-19 patients including 27 in intensive care.
Separate NHS data suggests that staff absenteeism has also contributed to the delay. At the end of December, 378 employees were sick at UHB, compared to 194 a month earlier.
A UHB spokesperson said: “Teams in our hospitals to increase the number of treatments available through innovative advanced peri-operative care units to open new theatres, create additional ward capacity across all of our hospital sites, reduce dependence on intensive care units. In some complicated cases, and increased recruitment – including 80 international nurses recruited to support key sectors such as theater and ITU.
“COVID-19 is unfortunately having a significant impact on our waiting list, however our incredible staff will continue to treat more than 20,000 patients with COVID-19 as well as prioritizing patients medically.”
Today’s report of the health committee suggests that there may be patients who need hospital treatment but do not come forward. The lawmakers said: “Our investigation also took a broader look at the issue of veiled demand. This includes not only ‘missing patients’, but also people with mental health issues, who are under lockdown and living with medical conditions. People with diabetes have suffered interruptions to their usual care – and whose health may be poor as a result.
“There is also a backlog in public health, where children have largely missed out on universal programs offered in school.
“We heard powerful testimony from patients who felt ‘abandoned’ by the NHS, who had to ‘fight’ for care, and for whom delays in treatment meant ongoing uncertainty, life was put on hold “
He said: “This report recognizes that the government has made it a key priority to tackle the backlog of COVID and is prepared to increase funding accordingly. But commitment and resources do not automatically equate to distribution.”
Mr Hunt said the government must act to deal with the 93,000 existing vacancies for NHS positions and the shortage in almost every specialty. He said: “Our report finds that the government’s recovery plans have been completely stalled by the anticipated staffing crisis. The current wave of Omicrons is exacerbating the problem, but we already had a severe staffing crisis, Which had a burnt out workforce, 93,000 NHS vacancies and no sign of any plans to address it.”
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