THE number of patients waiting more than 18 weeks for operations in Worcestershire has more than doubled in the last 12 months.
Shocking figures, which were presented at a meeting of health leaders, revealed patients waiting longer than the national target period had risen from 401 at the start of 2013, to more than 1,000 by the end of the year.
At the meeting of Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust board on January 29, chairman Harry Turner described the rise as “a great personal concern”.
Targets set by the NHS say no patient should wait more than 18 weeks – around four and a half months – for an operation.
But the backlog in Worcestershire has increased from 401 at the end of December 2012 to 1,029 at the end of 2013.
And Mr Turner said the alarming figures needed to be addressed as a matter of urgency.
“There are people who quality of life is being affected,” he said. “This is something we’ve got to sort out.”
Overall, 11.89 per cent of patients found themselves waiting longer than the 18 week target in December, with particular backlogs in ear, nose and throat surgery as well as oral and orthopaedic operations.
The board’s deputy chief executive Chris Tidman said: “We are at the point where we have action plans in place to make the most of the private sector but there will be an anomaly in terms of the backlog where it will start to get bigger before it gets done.
“We are not alone in having problems.”
He said part of the problem was the “unprecedented” amount of admissions in December as well as difficulties discharging patients once their operations were complete.
Board member John Burbeck said he was keen the problem was dealt with as a matter of urgency.
“There are patients in our hospitals who should be elsewhere and there are patients waiting to be treated who can’t because we haven’t got space for them,” he said.
The trust pledged to work alongside South Worcestershire Clinical Commissioning Group to tackle the figures, with a review in June.
The 18-week target set by the NHS is legally binding but does not apply if the patient voluntarily chooses to wait longer when delaying the treatment would be in their best interests – for example, if it is reliant on them losing weight first.
When Malvern woman Jenny Burford was booked in for her operation last year she was told it would be carried out within two to three weeks, and certainly by Christmas.
But 32 weeks later – almost twice as long as the recommended maximum waiting time – the 66-year- old is still waiting and could be until March.
“To my mind this is not acceptable,” said Mrs Burford, of Croft Farm Drive.
“What I find annoying,” she added, “is that my GP assured me at the time of his referral that I was an urgent case.
“I had waited until I knew it was bad before bothering either him or the hospital but now wish I had not as several people I know have received their replacement joint while still able to walk the Malvern Hills.
“No matter how bad, you just join the end of the queue and wait and wait and wait.”