Hospital waiting lists for surgery come under fire

“Horrifying” waiting lists for people needing treatment and surgery following the COVID-19 pandemic have come under fire from health bosses.

As of February, waiting lists for treatment at the Mid and South Essex Hospital Trust had increased by 39,000 patients, bringing the total to 128,605 waiting more than 18 weeks from referral to treatment.

Across Basildon, Southend and Broomfield hospitals, 251 patients have waited more than 104 days.

At the last clinical commissioning group board meeting, the situation was branded “unacceptable”.

Katherine Kirk, chairman of quality and governance committee at Basildon and Brentwood CCG, said: “Some of these figures are horrifying.

“Just imagine being in pain. Just imagine desperately needing an operation to be able to carry on with your life fully. You wait two years.

“Just imagine needing mental health services and you are in mental torment and you have to wait so many weeks, months.

“It’s so easy to see it as black writing on white paper and almost distance yourself from the real suffering of patients. It’s a situation which is just unacceptable.”

Pauline Stratford, from the Castle Point and Rochford Clinical Commissioning Group, also criticised the last minute cancellation of operations which had affected her personally.

She said: “A lot of patients are resigned to waiting but the communication that we give to patients is really important.

“My grandson has been waiting for an ear operation for over two years. They were quite happy to wait for the operation but he actually got a notification that the operation was going to be within five days and could he be prepared for it.

“Two days after that they said no operation. If they hadn’t said he wasn’t having an operation they would have been quite happy to wait.

“It raises expectations and emotional upset particularly for children.

Anthony McKeever, joint accountable officer at Basildon and Brentwood Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “I personally have been working 30 years to rid the NHS of long waits for exactly the reason Katherine says. If you are incensed by the waits, you have to get stuck in.

“That’s what we are trying to make sure our bit of the health service does. I’ve seen the hospitals step up to the challenge and the need to drive down these excessive waiting times.”

Christine Sexton

Local Democracy Reporter