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King's Lynn hospital treatment waiting lists hit record high, figures show

The number of patients waiting more than 18 weeks for routine treatment at Lynn’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital hit a record high in June.

The King’s Fund think tank warns the “body blow” inflicted to NHS services by Covid-19 means patients could face long waits for months or even years to come.

Patients referred for non-urgent consultant-led elective care should start treatment within 18 weeks, according to NHS rules.

QEH General Views of the outside of the hospital (32572968)
QEH General Views of the outside of the hospital (32572968)

But NHS data shows 6,715 patients on the waiting list for elective operations or treatment at the QEH at the end of June had been waiting longer.

That was 54 per cent of those on the list, up from just 18 per cent the previous June and the highest rate for the month since 2011, the earliest year for which data was available.

Of those who were delayed, 206 had been waiting more than a year.

NHS trusts are normally expected to make sure no more than eight per cent of its patients are left waiting beyond the 18-week maximum target.

But the thousands of procedures cancelled to free up hospitals during the coronavirus pandemic has created a huge backlog across England.

Nationally, 1.9 million people were still waiting for treatment after 18 weeks in June – the most for any month since records began in 2007.

At 48 per cent of those on the waiting list, it was also the worst performance on record.

More than 50,000 had been on the list for more than a year, compared to around 1,000 a year earlier.

Gbemi Babalola, senior analyst at the King’s Fund, said the virus has “dealt a body blow to NHS and social care services”.

“The sheer scale of pent up demand for healthcare services, and the ongoing challenges facing staff during the pandemic mean there is a long and difficult road ahead,” she added.

“Health and care leaders are already bracing for an intense winter spike in demand, and patients should expect long waits for care to continue for many months and maybe years to come.”

Boris Johnson recently announced NHS trusts across England will receive £300 million to upgrade facilities ahead of the winter amid fears of a second wave of the coronavirus.

The Prime Minister said the additional cash would enable hospitals to maintain essential services and reduce the risk of Covid-19 infection during the coming months.

The QEH was allocated just under £2 million from the funding, which comes from a £1.5 billion capital building allocation for the NHS set out by Mr Johnson in June.

But Dr Nick Scriven, former president of the Society for Acute Medicine, said it would “take more than a token cash injection announced by the Prime Minister this week to make up for years of neglect”.

An NHS spokesman said: “Now that the NHS has managed the first wave of coronavirus, there is an important job to do to help people whose planned care was postponed to protect their own safety, and that’s exactly what local health services are doing, while also remaining ready for any future increase in Covid cases.”

The QEH has been asked to comment on the figures, but had not done so at the time of going to press.

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