A recent news article reported that waiting lists for hospital treatment could more than double by spring 2021, and waiting times are very much a recognised concern across the Humber, Coast and Vale Health and Care Partnership. Clinicians working within the acute Trusts within the Partnership, supported by the Elective Care Programme, which focuses on improving the service delivery of planned surgery, day cases and procedures in primary care, are working tirelessly to perform as many operations as possible within the constraints of the coronavirus pandemic.
As part of a structured Recovery phase, a set of core principles have been developed, including processes that are clinically led and patient centred, to ensure organisations and all programmes of work are taking a consistent approach to clinical prioritisation and clinical validation of patients to ensure that the care and safety of people is maintained whilst they are on a waiting list.
As of the end of January 2021 (latest available figures) 130,282 people were waiting to start treatment in Humber, Coast and Vale, while 4,901 people started treatment in January.
Considerable efforts are being made to ensure we continue to work as a system so that we are able to offer time critical surgery across the integrated care system.
We have agreed a programme of work and senior medical staff are reviewing all planned surgical admissions to prioritise the most urgent patients for the surgical beds we have available. Part of this involves managing the growing lists of patients waiting for access to treatment and care across the area and ensuring services remain prioritised on clinical needs. This work supports our wider system planning for restoration and the longer term to treat the backlog of patients that has grown due to Covid-19.
We understand that lengthy waits for appointments and referrals can be a frustrating and worrying time for patients. A “Waiting Well” approach is being developed to provide support during this time, particularly focused on areas where there are higher levels of health inequalities.
We are exploring how patients can be offered additional support during their wait to meet other health needs or chronic conditions that they may have. In addition health training, coaching and support are being developed to help patients to better manage their self-care and optimise their health while waiting for care or treatment.
Medical staff are creating additional capacity for services which are experiencing particularly long waiting times, including ophthalmology, orthopaedics, urology and ear, nose and throat. Staff across all local Trusts are working together to agree collaborative ways of delivering services where there are high-volumes and low complexity of cases, and we continue to explore recruitment options where there are workforce shortages.
Work is also underway to improve diagnostics and investigative work and this will involve developing Rapid Diagnostic Centres and Community Diagnostic Hubs with easier and more timely access and where possible away from the Acute Trust sites. Emergency diagnostics and planned diagnostics will be where appropriate separated to simplify the care needs of those awaiting treatment.
This programme of work is ambitious but aims to shorten patients’ waits where possible, and recognises that the increase in the number of people waiting for planned care means that delivering services the way they have been delivered pre-COVID will not be enough to reduce waiting times.
By working together across sectors, geographies and organisations, we can ensure the needs of our patients remain at the heart of all decisions as we continue to respond to the unprecedented events that have unfolded this year.
Different and more radical solutions are needed and the Recovery Phase outlined will give us the best possible chance of ensuring patients continue to receive the right care in as timely a manner as possible as we continue to tackle the impact of the pandemic.