HEREFORD County Hospital has until September to clear a backlog of nearly 400 operations – but health bosses say that can’t be done.

This morning (Wed) the Wye Valley NHS Trust (WVT) board heard that the backlog could be cleared by November at a push.

The hospital currently has 378 patients waiting over 16 weeks for an operation.

NHS England (NHSE) now wants all Trusts to treat patients waiting over 16 weeks by the end of September.

Neil Doverty, WVT chief operating officer, told the board that the September deadline was “challenging”.

November was the best estimate offered to the board.

But that, members were warned, would only be reached by “pushing hard” and working with the private sector where cases could be transferred over.

In June, the Hereford Times revealed the extent of cancelled elective operations at Hereford County Hospital.

The hospital is coping with unprecedented emergency demand as A&E attendances near as many as 200 patients a day at a unit designed for a maximum of 125.

With urgent care the priority, elective operations are being cancelled - some on the day – because the hospital does not have enough beds.

Around 120 operations were cancelled in May, up from 113 in April.

Figures for June show 48 operations were cancelled for non-clinical reasons either on the day they were due to go ahead or the day before.

All told, the hospital had 378 operations outstanding as of today (Wed).

Continued pressure on bed capacity sees the hospital struggling to meet  elective surgical throughput has struggled to meet the 18 week maximum waiting time target for elective surgery.

WVT is already working with the Herefordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and other agencies to response to acknowledged “poor performance” on the A&E four hour waiting standard.

Around £1.5 million in extra funding is coming the county’s way through schemes designed to support the Hospital and manage demand arising from emergency flows.

Against this, WVT’s elective care services are said to be “managing well” to hold up planned surgical and day case patient activity ahead of NHS England’s request for more.

With help from WVT’s senior clinicians and managers, the CCG has agreed in principle to a new joint initiative examining a range of specialities that are encountering heightened demand for  outpatient access.

This work is intended to assist GPs in making appropriate referrals to WVT.

Diagnostics at WVT remains under extreme pressure due to exceptional demand and the absence of  key skilled staff.

A related action plan submitted by the WVT to the NHS Trust Development Authority has met with approval.

Figures for June show 148 patients waiting beyond the six week time target for a diagnostic test.