PATIENTS could wait over a year for surgery at the Isle of Wight NHS Trust.
One concerned resident had been told the waiting list for orthopaedic surgery at St Mary’s Hospital, Newport, was 60 weeks long — more than three times the maximum waiting time (18 weeks) as laid down in the NHS constitution.
The resident said: “The waiting list is growing weekly — meanwhile patients have to suffer in silence.”
A raft of measures are being brought in and considered at the Island’s only hospital, including extra scanners and more clinical teams, but the outlook for patients needing inpatient or day surgery is not bright.
The trust says patients could face ‘significant delays’ due to the coronavirus pandemic and there ‘will be some people that will wait more than 12 months for their procedure’.
Clare Gowland, deputy chief operating officer of the Isle of Wight NHS Trust, speaking at a meeting of the Isle of Wight Council’s health scrutiny committee, said it felt it as much as the patients do.
She said: “We have undertaken a review of all patients with extended waiting times and they will be prioritised by clinical order but the three biggest impacts are social distancing, infection prevention and control, and maintaining the Covid and non-Covid flows.”
Elective surgeries, those planned in advance, were stopped at the start of the pandemic to allow the NHS to cope with the virus and treat those who needed it most but the surgeries have been started again — but not at full capacity.
Operation theatres at St Mary’s are only working at 79 per cent capacity due to infection control between operations but the trust is looking at extending theatre days and has confirmed it is bringing in clinical teams to operate over the weekend.
The use of the mainland’s private sector is also something some patients will be encouraged to consider in an effort to reduce the waiting lists.
Chief executive officer of the trust, Maggie Oldham, said at a board meeting, they would encourage patients to take the offer.
She said: “I want to reassure our community we are focused on recovering those services we were instructed to stop earlier in the pandemic — we do have backlogs and I apologise to those who are experiencing longer waits for their treatments.
“It really is at the forefront of our minds that we do not want to return to some of the extremely long waits we have had in the past.
“It does mean some patients will be offered their treatments off-Island and I know that is met with trepidation and frustration from members of our community.
“We will do what we can here but if we can work with our mainland partners to ensure our community does not have exceptional waits we will encourage patients to have treatments off Island.”
A spokesperson for the Isle of Wight NHS Trust said it had restarted operations and outpatient clinics, with staff working tirelessly to ensure people are seen as quickly as possible.
They said: “We are doing everything possible to increase our theatre capacity.
“Keeping everyone safe during the pandemic means fewer people can be on the hospital site at any one time.
“Social distancing, the important infection control measures we have in place and cleaning between procedures mean that it takes longer than normal for each operation.
“Our outpatient department is now open and running at 91 per cent capacity, however, due to social distancing we are not yet able to fully book clinics.
“If anyone has concerns about their care we urge them to contact our Patient Advice and Liaison Service.”