EXTRA cash could be made available to solve the county’s waiting list crisis which has soared by more than 800 per cent in the last two years.
A total of 90 per cent of patients requiring admission are supposed to be treated within 18 weeks of referral but Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust has failed to hit the target for 11 months running. As a result there are now 1,737 people waiting longer than the set time for their operation, up from 181 in April 2012.
NHS England has now indicated they expect hospitals with a backlog to resolve the problem by September at the latest and extra money will be made available to commissioners to find solutions.
WAHT has already implemented a number of measures including increasing the number of surgical beds available at both the Alexandra and Worcestershire Royal Hospitals and carrying out more surgery at weekends.
Patients are also being treated in private hospitals but on the NHS with 33 orthopaedic patients being treated so far in the independent sector with significantly more planned over the coming months. Consideration is also being given to use of a mobile theatre at the Alex.
But Chris Tidman, the Trust’s director of resources, said even with extra money it was unlikely the backlog would be cleared before the original date of November.
Part of the problem is referrals from GPs are increasing faster than the Trust can complete operations.
The pressure on A&E is also continuing with admissions up 4.2 per cent between November and mid-May compared with the previous 12 months, which blocks beds and leads to cancelled operations.
“What we are trying to do is furiously pedal faster but work is coming in quicker than we can do it to cut that backlog”, Mr Tidman added.
But a spokesman for Redditch and Bromsgrove CCG said they were still working with GP practices to validate the claim referrals were increasing. He said there were a range of challenges to the 18 week target including a shortfall in consultant staffing to meet demand, inefficient hospital processes and increasing levels of emergency activity.
The spokesman also rejected any suggestion GPs would be instructed not to refer patients while the backlog was cleared.
“The CCG does not intend to introduce arbitrary measures to reduce referrals or delay treatment. The focus is on redesigning pathways so patients can be treated in other clinical settings as appropriate to their clinical need.”