Hospital waiting lists reach record high in Newcastle with over 80,000 people needing treatment

Waiting lists for treatment have hit record highs at Newcastle hospitals and A&Es are under pressure.

The latest figures from NHSEngland show the Newcastle Upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Trust now has a record waiting list for routine treatment, such as hip and knee operations.

There were 86,210 people waiting for care at the end of June – the highest number since records began in August 2007.

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Numbers are also increasing at County Durham and Darlington NHS Trust, at 29,473 it was the highest level since May 2008, and Northumbria Healthcare NHS Trust, rising to 25,056.

However, waiting times for those on the list had improved at trusts across the North East compared to May, including falls in the number waiting more than a year for treatment.

Meanwhile, waiting times in A&Es across the North East worsened last month.

At Gateshead Health NHS Trust, 80.4% waited less than four hours to be admitted, discharged or transferred, the worst performance since records began in June 2015, down from 87.8% in June.

South Tees Hospitals NHS Trust also recorded its worst four-hour waits on record at 77.9%, down from 82.5%.

Waiting lists for treatment have increased in North East hospitals
Waiting lists for treatment have increased in North East hospitals
(Image: PA)

The region’s NHS chiefs say they are working hard to reduce waiting times and point out that North East and North Cumbria trusts are ranked top nationally for performance against key waiting times for A&E and treatment within 18 weeks.

The data also shows the region is performing above the national average across most key waiting time standards.

Despite unprecedented pressures, figures for July shows that 81.7% of patients spent less than four hours from arrival to transfer, admission or discharge in our A&E departments.

This compares to a national average of 77.7%. The national standard all trusts are expected to achieve is 95%.

Two trusts have performed particularly well in relation to the A&E four-hour waiting time standard.

Northumbria Healthcare ranked first in the country with 92% of patients spending less than four hours in A&E and Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals ranked 11th.

Emergency departments across the region cared for more than 127,235 people in July alone.

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There are also some signs of recovery with the number of people waiting more than 52 weeks starting to reduce in recent months and the percentage of people being treated within 18 weeks increasing across the region.

This is despite hospitals and others services, including primary care and ambulance services, experiencing one of its busiest summers ever.

Three trusts are in the top five in the country for the percentage of patients treated within 18 weeks at the end of June.

Northumbria Healthcare ranked first in the country with 88.9% of patients treated within 18 weeks, North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust ranked second with 88.6% and South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust was fourth with 88.2%.

This compares to an England average of 68.8%.

NHS chiefs say they are working hard to reduce waiting times despite the pressure hospitals are under
NHS chiefs say they are working hard to reduce waiting times despite the pressure hospitals are under
(Image: PA)

Dame Jackie Daniel, who chairs the North East and North Cumbria Provider Collaborative, which includes ambulance, hospital and mental health trusts, said: “To see trusts in our region performing in the top nationally and our region performing above the England average is a testament to all our frontline teams who have worked tirelessly over the past 18 months in the most challenging of circumstances. I would like to express our thanks to each and every one of them.

“This also reflects the collaborative working across our region too. We have, by working together, managed to maintain a significant amount of activity across all our organisations throughout the pandemic and this joined-up approach will be vital as we move forward in our recovery too.

“However, there is still a way for us to go before we get back to where we were before the pandemic, and we know that many people are waiting longer for treatment than any of us would want, which is frustrating and worrying for them.

“We do still face many challenges as we continue to adhere to strict infection control procedure, address the backlog that has built up, and more recently we have seen unprecedent demand for services too. I would like to reassure people we are doing everything we can to tackle these challenges.”

Lyn Simpson, who jointly chairs the collaborative, added: “Our communities are always at the heart of everything we do and we don’t underestimate the personal impact on patients and their loved ones where treatment has been delayed.

“That’s why we are all committed to working together across all our organisations to prioritise those patients with the most urgent clinical need, those waiting the longest and on ensuring equal access to treatment for those parts of our communities which have been hardest hit by the pandemic.”

Ambulance services also saw increased demand last month.

North East Ambulance Service (NEAS) answered 44,856 calls in July, the highest number since records began in August 2017. Ambulances also attended a record 3,358 category one calls – the most serious, blue light incidents.

NEAS says demand for the 999 service has risen by almost 68% compared to levels that would normally be expected at this time of year.

People are being urged to use online, which offers patients advice on the best option to get care, including getting a call back from a qualified clinician, booking an appointment in A&E or providing advice on how to help them recover.

NEAS chief executive Helen Ray said: “We have seen demand on our 999 services match or exceed a pre-pandemic New Year’s Eve, which is traditionally our busiest day or the year.

“We are rightly prioritising those patients that are the sickest or most severely injured. Everyone who needs an ambulance will get one, but in some cases, there are some patients who could access the care they need using other options other than dialling 999.”

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Chronicle Live – Sunderland