‘Significant’ backlog of patients in west London’s hospitals

17 August, 2020 / by Matt Smith

Image above: Hammersmith Hospital

There is a ‘significant’ backlog of patients on waiting lists for routine surgery in hospitals in west London, due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Temporary measures introduced to prevent the spread of COVID-19 have had an impact on patients waiting for procedures which aren’t considered to be ‘time critical’.

The board of the Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, which runs Charing Cross Hospital, St Mary’s Hospital and Hammersmith Hospital, released a report on the issue recently, which outlined their finding that a total of 258 patients had been waiting for more than 52 weeks at the end of May – with the final figure for June exceeding 500 patients. In February 2020 there was just one patient who had waited 52 weeks or longer.

The three hospitals ‘continued to perform strongly’ against their target for patients to be seen by a cancer specialist within two weeks of being referred by a GP. But many patients were still waiting over the 62-day target to get their first treatment for a cancer diagnosis. 76% of patients were seen within this time, against a target of 85%, according to the report. The number of people who received a cancer treatment at the three hospitals fell from 104 in April to 54 in May.

Images above: St. Mary’s Hospital; a member of staff in PPE

‘Hidden cost’ of Covid-19

Covid-19 has led to a ‘significant disruption’ in cancer services across the NHS according to another report, published by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), looking at national data. ‘This will likely result in delayed diagnosis and treatment for those patients affected’ say the IPPR.

‘We know that delays in referral lead to delays in diagnosis; delays in diagnosis to delays in treatment; and delays in treatment to premature deaths. Put simply: early diagnosis and treatment can make the difference between life and death’.

Working with CF healthcare consulting they analysed the potential impact of late diagnosis on cancer outcomes, focusing on three types of cancer: lung, breast and colorectal, and their predictions make depressing reading.

Their results show that for lung cancer, five-year survival stands to drop from 16.2 per cent to 15.4 per cent, for breast cancer from 85 per cent to 83.5 per cent, and for colorectal cancer from 58.4 per cent to 56.1 per cent.

‘There is an urgent need for the government to put measures in place to restore the NHS’s performance’ they conclude.

‘This must mean quickly addressing the backlog of cancer care, which is thought to be impacting up to 2.4 million people through urgent referrals alone’.

‘Working to protect our patients and staff’

A spokesperson for the Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust told The Chiswick Calendar:

“Like all other NHS trusts, we quickly had to make temporary changes to the way our services are organised. In order to create capacity for the increased level of demand, and to minimise the risk of contracting the virus for other patients, we carried out only procedures that were time critical.

“This has meant we have seen a significant impact on our waiting lists – particularly affecting routine surgery. We also have a significant back log in diagnostic tests such as endoscopy, bronchoscopy, CT or MRI.

“All patients are now being reviewed and re-scheduled as we resume more planned care using new Covid-protected and Covid-risk-managed pathways. We are also continuing to make use of independent sector capacity which has allowed us to continue urgent cancer and urgent non-cancer surgeries throughout the pandemic.

“We have accessed independent sector capacity to support cancer surgical treatment, cancer surgical diagnosis and urgent non-cancer work in specialities such as cardiology, gynaecology, general surgery and urology.

“We are working closely with the rest of north west London on resuming planned care to ensure we have a joined up and consistent approach. As with all of these decisions – we are working to protect our patients and staff. We are also working to make sure we are prepared for possible further peaks of Covid-19 infections and the certain increase in urgent and emergency care demand over the winter”.

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

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