Some remote appointments will continue at Ipswich and Colchester Hospitals

Neill Moloney, ESNEFT deputy chief executive Picture: ANDY ABBOTT

Neill Moloney, ESNEFT deputy chief executive Picture: ANDY ABBOTT - Credit: Archant

Hospitals will continue to embrace remote check-ups as they work "quickly and safely" to bring patients back in, following a fall in outpatient appointments.

Video and telephone clinics have been working alongside face-to-face outpatient consultations throughout the pandemic at East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust.

The trust's deputy chief executive Neill Moloney said they are bringing patients back to their Colchester and Ipswich Hospitals "quickly and safely".

He added: "Social distancing guidance has had an impact on face-to-face consultations, but specialty teams have been running video and telephone clinics throughout the pandemic.

"This use of technology will continue, and our staff have also been working incredibly hard to contact patients in person to reduce the amount of time they’re waiting for a first outpatient appointment."

Outpatient appointments have dropped, during the pandemic from 1,841,305 in 2019/2020 to 1,507,560 in the 2020/21 period to March, at the trust according to NHS Digital data.

Around 84% of appointments booked at East Suffolk and North Essex Trust went ahead, but 6% were cancelled by the trust. The remainder were either not attended or cancelled by the patient.

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Mr Moloney said: “There are several reasons why we might cancel an appointment. Sometimes we will reschedule for a patient’s benefit so we can see them sooner, or to create more time at an appointment if test results need to be discussed and on rare occasions due to staff absence.

“We are bringing people back to our hospitals who need an outpatient appointment as quickly and as safely as we can.

Social distancing guidance has had an impact on face-to-face consultations, but specialty teams have been running video and telephone clinics throughout the pandemic. This use of technology will continue, and our staff have also been working incredibly hard to contact patients in person to reduce the amount of time they’re waiting for a first outpatient appointment.

“We would encourage anyone who receives an invitation to attend outpatients to come and see us – these appointments are vital, and it is safe for you to come to hospital, but if you’re unable to attend for any reason, please let us know.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokeswoman said the £2 billion investment by the government this year and £8 billion over the next three years "will deliver an extra nine million checks, scans, and operations for patients across the country". 

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