North Staffordshire hospital appointments backlog hits thousands
THOUSANDS of patients are waiting too long for routine appointments with hospital doctors in North Staffordshire.
The backlog of people delayed beyond Government targets at the University Hospital of North Staffordshire is growing so quickly that NHS fundholders have vowed to crack down on the trust running the hospital.
They are particularly worried about hold-ups faced by those needing to start treatment for eye illnesses. But delays hitting patients with conditions of the skin, heart, ear, nose and throat and brain are also causing concern.
The area's GPs, who now commission care for the local population, say they could use their new powers to set up services in other towns and cities for people to be referred to.
Business Cards From Only £10.95 Delivered www.myprint-247.co.ukView details
Our heavyweight cards have FREE UV silk coating, FREE next day delivery & VAT included. Choose from 1000's of pre-designed templates or upload your own artwork. Orders dispatched within 24hrs.
Terms: Visit our site for more products: Business Cards, Compliment Slips, Letterheads, Leaflets, Postcards, Posters & much more. All items are free next day delivery. www.myprint-247.co.uk
Contact: 01858 468192
Valid until: Sunday, May 26 2013
But as many patients do not like to travel out of North Staffordshire for care, they are stepping up the pressure for UHNS to make improvements and offer quicker consultations.
Just over 4,500 people still have not received an appointment five weeks after being referred to the hospital by their surgery. And according to the figures published by Stoke-on-Trent's GP-led Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), that is 406 more than in June.
The total backlog of people awaiting consultations at UHNS's outpatient clinics now stands at 16,500 – an increase of 498 from the summer.
Of those, 9,774 have been queuing longer than the health department target of five weeks.
It is set at that level so that treatment can start within the 18-week deadline from being referred by family doctors.
The growing lists have forced experts at UHNS to divide the patients into different classifications, depending on how much their health is being put at risk by being kept waiting to see specialists.
A report by Hanley GP Dr Steve Fawcett, the CCG's clinical lead for planned care, said: "We are now receiving a weekly update from UHNS on the position.
"But following a review of the hospital's eye service this month, serious concerns were raised over its capacity.
"We are currently working with UHNS on options to increase that capacity."
CCG chairman Dr Prasad Rao, who is also a GP in Dresden, added: "As a jobbing doctor, I find this to be unacceptable. Patients tell us in surgery that they are more concerned about delays for urgent care at the hospital, but they still say the wait for outpatient appointments needs to be resolved.
"As CCG chair, I can say we are doing our utmost to do just that, and I am confident that by using our new commissioning powers we will succeed.
"We do have the option of commissioning services elsewhere for our patients to use, but people tell us they would rather be treated at UHNS and not have to travel elsewhere."
Health watchdogs said the build-up of an outpatients backlog was partly down to different branches of the area's NHS not working together.
Newcastle mayor David Becket, a member of the borough council's health scrutiny committee, pictured below left, said: "This is a massive problem locally. We see one trust cutting a service and patients having to use another one as a consequence.
"People needing outpatients appointments may not have life-threatening condition, but without treatment that can quickly change."