‘Frightening’: Havering patients in hospital waiting list limbo
- Credit: Ken Mears
A dramatic increase in waiting times for treatment nationally has meant the number of Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Trust (BHRUT) patients receiving treatment within four months has halved.
In January 75.6 per cent of patients received treatment during that time frame.
But by June, the figure had gone down to under half at 48.3pc. In January. 25 people were waiting in excess of a year for treatment - now, it’s more than 1,254.
The Recorder spoke to patients affected by delayed treatment due to the pandemic.
In July, Rachel Hadley, 30, from Romford, woke up one morning having lost almost all vision in her left eye.
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After being told she has an inflamed nerve, she was sent for an emergency MRI for fear of a brain tumour. After a few appointments with month-long gaps, she was told she very likely had multiple sclerosis (MS).
Now four months later Rachel is still waiting for an official diagnosis.
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She said: “The neurologist that gave me my results (but doesn’t deal with MS) said I need to be seen in person at an MS clinic, but that ‘they’re not seeing people in person at the moment, although it shouldn’t be too much longer’.
“I cannot be diagnosed with MS until I’m seen in clinic, which they’re not doing at the moment, so I can’t even discuss treatments yet.
“I have no way of knowing how my eyes are now, and I’ve had no support with the fatigue and general strain this has put on me. I’ve been told I have MS as per the results but have been given no support or guidance with what stage I am with the disease, or what happens next, and it’s very frightening.”
On talking to nurses at other London trusts, Bart’s and University College, Rainham resident Donna Wilks got an insight as to partly why there’s are such extreme delays. She said: “Talking to the staff it’s apparent that the challenges of treating patients safely are greatly reducing capacity.
“I had heart and lung investigations which had to be done over two days rather than one. The reason being that the testing room had to be left vacant for an hour between each patient to enable adequate air exchange to take place.
“All staff were wearing full PPE which had to be properly donned and doffed if they needed to leave the room for any reason - again slowing everything down.”
Chief medical officer of Barking, Havering and Redbridge University trust, Magda Smiths said: “As with the rest of the NHS, the Covid-19 pandemic has had a huge impact on our waiting lists. Our ability to reduce them will continue to be affected while we must follow even stricter infection prevention and control guidelines as we work to reintroduce our services safely.
“Getting our patients the care they need is one of our highest priorities, and we must ensure we prioritise according to clinical need. We’re working hard to ensure we can see more patients in our Outpatients’ department, and carry out more procedures in our theatres, while keeping our staff and patients safe.
“We’re working with our partners across the whole of north east London, seeing where we can use our combined capacity to reduce waiting lists. We’re also continuing to work with the independent sector, which was how we ensured our cancer patients got the care they needed safely during the peak of the pandemic. And we’ve introduced a temporary surgical hub at King George Hospital, which will help to boost the amount of planned surgery we can carry out, getting more patients the care they need faster.
“These steps have seen our waiting lists reduce, and our performance steadily improve over the last few months, from 44 per cent in July, to 48 per cent in August and 54 per cent in September.”