WAITING times for treatment in mid and south Essex are among the worst in the country, according to new data.
Just 42.1 per cent of patients – equivalent to 38,250 people – were seen within 18 weeks in June, leaving the Mid and South Essex NHS Trust in the bottom seven per cent of trusts.
It means that around 52,000 have been waiting for 18 weeks or more for treatment.
The trust is the result of a merger earlier in the year between the three trusts of Mid Essex, Basildon and Southend.
A spokesman for the trust said: “As one of the biggest trusts in the country, our waiting time figures will naturally be high. Over the last few months there have been many changes to the way we have all been working to support our local population during the Covid pandemic, in particular we have either had to reduce or stop a lot of our planned elective care work.
“During the last few weeks we have already begun to safely restore some of these services, whilst continuing to care for patients affected. Our merger, which came in the middle of the pandemic in April, has already showcased some amazing team work and how together, Southend, Basildon and Broomfield hospitals can work more effectively and efficiently for our patients.
“This will continue so we are prepared to respond to future waves of infection whilst maintaining treatment, care and support of the population. Throughout Covid we have not stopped providing emergency and urgent care for those who needed it and as we reset our services we will be exploring ways of reducing waiting times, whilst continuing to minimise the risk of Covid-19 to both patients and staff.”
The waiting times were significantly worse than national averages. At the end of June 2020, 52 per cent of overall patients waiting to start treatment were waiting up to 18 weeks – equivalent to 1.86 million patients.
The previous record was 1.79 million in August 2007.
At Princess Alexandra in Harlow 71.2 per cent of patients – or 9,926 people – were seen in 18 weeks.
It means that 3,840 people waited for more than 18 weeks.
Stephanie Lawton, chief operating officer at The Princess Alexandra Hospital NHS Trust, said: “Over the last few months, our people have worked extremely hard to provide the majority of outpatient appointments virtually (not face-to-face), with telephone and video clinics for patients. All urgent face-to-face appointments, treatment and procedures have continued during this time.
“We have transformed the way we provide care to ensure the safety of our patients and staff. After a very challenging period for the hospital and local community, the number of patients requiring hospital treatment for coronavirus (Covid-19) has significantly decreased in recent months. We are now recommencing face-to-face appointments across all specialities that cannot be carried out virtually – a thorough checklist and assessment process is in place to identify which patients these appointments are suitable for.
“We are currently working to offer appointments to the longest waiting patients, in order of clinical priority, and are continuing to expand the scope and number of procedures offered, in line with national Covid-19 guidance.”