THE amount of people in Worcestershire waiting longer than 18 weeks for operations has become a “crisis”, the board running the three acute hospitals in the county has heard.
NHS targets say patients should wait no longer than 18 weeks for operations, but a report presented to the Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust last week showed 1,108 people had been waiting longer than this.
This figure has more than doubled in the past year from 553 in January 2013, and only 181 in April 2012.
Board member Andrew Sleigh said the issue should be treated as “a major local health economy crisis”.
“We should be in emergency mode about this,” he said.
Saying the increase in the backlog was at least partially down to patients opting to put off their operations until after the Christmas period, chief operating officer Stewart Messer said that is is almost too late now.
He said: “When we talk about the impact of Christmas this isn’t about our staff or surgeons taking time off enjoying the holidays.
“Patients are deferring their treatment until after Christmas and the New Year and the window in which we need to treat them in is being missed as a result. There will always be a blip at this time of year.
“We need to look at how much confidence we have that this will not happen again next January.”
He added the trust should enter into agreements with private providers as early as possible in order to reduce the possibility of the trust facing a similar problem next year and said the organisation had set itself a target of dealing with the backlog by August.
“I think we have to be bold and aim for that,” he said.
“I wish I could be a bit more positive but my gut feeling is it’s looking a lot more positive. Everyone’s working very hard on this.”
Deputy chief executive Chris Tidman said key to clearing the backlog was making sure patients who had been treated and were ready to go home or to another facility such as a community hospital or a care home were moved on to free up beds for those waiting for operations.
“Our main target is to maintain flow through the hospital back into people’s homes,” he said.
“I want to make sure patients wait no longer require a bed are sent home. There is a plan to see if we can put additional operations in place to deal with the backlog."