Hospitals to work at '110%' to help cut appointment backlog, chiefs say

ESNEFT which runs Ipswich and Colchester Hospitals is facing increased demand.

ESNEFT which runs Ipswich and Colchester Hospitals is facing increased demand. - Credit: PA/ANDY ABBOTT

Bosses at Ipswich and Colchester hospitals plan to increase elective surgery activity "up to 110%" in a bid to clear the patient backlog.

At an East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust (ESNEFT) board meeting, health chiefs heard that hospitals were under pressure in a number of different areas and are putting in place new measures to cope with demand.

Among the areas where doctors have seen a growth in the number of referrals are cancer and mental health.

Neill Moloney, deputy chief executive, said: "What we have noticed is that the number of people that have had cancer is not substantially higher. 

Neill Moloney, Acting Chief Executive of East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust (ESNEFT)

Neill Moloney, deputy chief executive of East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust (ESNEFT) - Credit: ANDY ABBOTT

"There is demographic growth in those numbers, but it isn't anywhere near the 60% increase in referrals that we have received." 

Another area of increased demand he highlighted was elective surgery.

Mr Moloney said: "The report highlights quite a significant increase relative to March 2020.

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"Of course, in March 2020, we did reduce the amount of elective work that we were undertaking. And while we are planning for an increase, it certainly wouldn't be at the level that we have seen reported.

"So we will see that dipping, but our plan for this year is to increase activity up to 110%. And to ensure that we have no patients waiting over 78 weeks.

"Our ambitions are going further than that national ambition for many specialities with many of those now much lower than 52 weeks."

Recent pressures have been made worse by a large number of staff being off with Covid-19 in recent months. Bosses say absence levels are going down and are expected to continue to fall into summer.

Mr Moloney said during recent months hospital staff had worked to "manage" more people in the community, helping to lessen the strain on the ambulance service.

He said: "There's lots of learning from that about how we're continuing to support that going forward. Not least the process that we put in place to help manage some of those patients that the ambulance service didn't necessarily need to go see but they did need somebody to see out in the community – our community teams were offering that support."

Nick Hulme, ESNEFT chief executive, added hospital bosses should take note of the psychological harm that waiting times caused patients as well as any physical harm that could be caused. 

Nick Hulme, Chief Executive of ESNEFT

Nick Hulme, Chief Executive of ESNEFT - Credit: PAGEPIX