Local people praised for patience over waits for postponed operations

The impact of Covid-19 on local people - whether they have the had the virus or not - was discussed at a meeting of the Berkshire West Clinical Commissioning Group on 9 June.
waiting room photo

Local people have been praised by a GP for being ‘very, very patient and understanding’ about their postponed operations during the pandemic.

Work is now underway to decide how and when these will start again, with the possibility of sending patients to local, private hospitals, or to out-of-area hospitals.

The details were given in response to a question put by Healthwatch Reading to an online meeting of Berkshire West Clinical Commissioning Group’s governing body on 9 June 2020. The CCG plans and fund NHS services for Reading, Wokingham and West Berkshire.

As well as delayed operations, the pandemic has had other serious consequences for local people, the meeting heard (see box, below).

The impact of lockdown on people's health

  • Sadly, five babies have been hurt and another has died, from suspected non-accidental injuries, across the Berkshire West area, prompting investigations. The CCG has put out various resources such as coping guides for families.
  • The number of urgent cancer referrals made by GPs, went down by 50 per cent at the peak of the pandemic, possibly due to people not wanting to seek help from a busy NHS
  • Some people are not going to hospital for urgent investigations such as endoscopy, possibly because they are unsure about self-isolating rules beforehand
  • Calls to 111 took much longer to answer as the number phoning went from 3,000 to 6-8,000 per day in March
  • The first, local, death-free day from Covid-19, is predicted to be in mid-late July
  • People may be sent to private hospitals or further away, to clear the backlog of operations

Information from a meeting of Berkshire West Clinical Commissioning Group's governing body, held online in public on 9 June 2020.

In our question to the CCG, Healthwatch Reading asked: “How concerned are local GPs about the impact on their patients of the backlog and have any talks begun about when operations and procedures will re-start? Will people be treated in order or will they have to be reassessed by specialisrts?” We also drew the CCG to the attention of comments made by the chair of our national body, Healthwatch England (see below).

"The sheer size of the current backlog presents one of the biggest challenges in the history of the NHS and will undoubtedly impact on people’s experiences of care. For those struggling or in pain, longer waiting times cannot be seen as an
inevitability."
- Sir Robert Francis, chair of Healthwatch England

Sir Robert called for 7-day working and spare Nightingale Hospital beds to be used to help tackle the backlog of operations.

Responding to Healthwatch Reading, Dr Abid Irfan, GP chair of Berkshire West CCG, acknowledged there would be long waiting lists and he praised “most patients, who have been very, very patient and understanding”.

Sam Burrows, deputy accountable officer of the CCG, added that usually the NHS aspired to provide operations in chronological order but the complication of the pandemic meant that some patients who were waiting for a ‘routine’ operation, may have become ‘urgent’ during the delay.

He said the CCG was working through which patients may need to use private hospitals - under a national deal made by the NHS - to get their operation. The CCG would also be talks to counterparts in East Berkshire and Hampshire about working together, which might mean patients having to travel, if they could, ‘outside of their home geography’ for their operation.

How are you coping with a wait for an operation?

Has your health stayed the same, improved or got worse, while you have waited for an operation that was postponed because of the pandemic?

Share your views in our Pandemic Experience Survey and we'll use the feedback to help the NHS with planning a re-start of services.

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