Many of our patients, carers and their families will know that the COVID-19 pandemic has had a big impact on the NHS, and although COVID cases in our hospitals have now reduced we still have a lot of work to do to restore services to the same level they were before the pandemic.
As a result United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust (ULHT) and NHS Lincolnshire CCG are working closely together to restore hospital services across the county as quickly as possible, and to address waiting times experienced by patients waiting for time-critical surgery. A particular focus is on elective care*, since many services were stood down last year to release theatre staff to support the increased demand on local intensive care units due to COVID-19.
The number of people in Lincolnshire waiting for treatment in March 2020 was 52,000, this has now risen to around 65,000. In terms of 52 week waits*, in March last year we had seven, we now have 3,856 – approximately 1,800 of these patients are waiting for treatment in ULHT hospitals, and the remainder are waiting for treatment out of county/from other providers.
Clearly the pandemic has had a huge impact across the entire country on how long people are having to wait for treatment, and this is no different in Lincolnshire. We are working closely with providers of care across Lincolnshire, to restore services and treat as many patients as we can, recognising the continued social distancing measures that impact our ability to treat patients in the way we have done previously.
Simon Evans, ULHT Chief Operating Officer said: “We realise that this is a difficult time, especially for those people who are still waiting for treatment, and we apologise for the distress this may have caused. We are doing everything in our power to address this and to introduce initiatives that will make a major contribution to reduce the length of time people are waiting.”
Once referred to hospital, a patient will receive a letter from the National E-Referral System or from the hospital directly. If they have not received any correspondence within 4-6 weeks of referral, they can check on the NHS app (free to download) or contact their GP Practice to check they have been referred in the first instance.
Referrals are then reviewed by consultants within the hospital and patients are prioritised according to their clinical condition. Whilst waiting, should a patient’s symptoms deteriorate, the NHS are advising them to contact the hospital they have been referred to so a specialist can review their changing symptoms and their referral letter. Once a patient is referred, GP Practices cannot help ‘speed up’ referrals or have them dealt with any quicker, however they may be able to support with symptom management whilst they wait for their appointment.
Should a patient need to discuss their hospital appointment, there is a contact number on the hospital letter they have been given, or alternatively there are central numbers available below.
The NHS has never been a ‘COVID-19 only’ service during the pandemic and many services have continued as near to normal as possible. Most of our local population, particularly those whose appointments and procedures have been postponed, have been supportive, patient and understanding of the changes which have had to be made over the last year. Our staff, who have gone above and beyond for more than a year now, want to thank people for their patience.