A RECORD number of operations have been carried out in the county’s hospitals but bosses say they still face a struggle to reduce the backlog of patients waiting more than 18 weeks for treatment.
The warning comes from Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust as Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt pledges an extra £250million to bring down waiting lists, particularly for those who have been waiting more than a year for treatment.
Although no one has been waiting longer than 12 months in Worcestershire a total of 1,612 have waited over the 18 week target time with some more than 37 weeks.
The issue has become more politically sensitive as the General Election draws nearer with both the Department of Health and NHS England pushing Trusts to clear any backlog by September.
The Trust has responded to the problem by increasing the number of operations performed. About 300 additional inpatient operations and around 600 additional day cases were carried out in June, cutting the backlog by close to 400 patients.
GPs are also reviewing those caught up in the backlog and offering them treatment in the private sector but paid for by the NHS.
But at the same time demand is increasing with orthopaedics alone being hit by a 7.7 per cent increase in referrals into the Trust.
A lot also depends on the number of patients admitted through A&E as a sudden surge in demand could tie up beds and result in cancelled operations.
Stewart Messer, the Trust’s chief operating officer, said to clear the backlog by September would require another 600 patients to be treated during August on top of the 960 treated in June, which was an all time record.
“You do start to run out, not necessarily of people capacity, but of physical capacity.” he told a board meeting last Wednesday (July 30).
The Trust remains on course to clear the backlog by November but that is based on demand reducing as well as extra operations being carried out.
“It is like turning a very big oil tanker in terms of getting this back on track.” Mr Messer added.
Chief executive Penny Venables said on some occasions there were good clinical reasons for delaying treatment due to the complexity of a patient’s condition.