Health issue apology for record delays to surgery

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A PUBLIC apology has been issued by the Health Department for ‘unacceptable delays’ after waiting times for some surgery reached a record high due to a shortage of beds.

Patients suffering from what one consultant previously called ‘painful joints and progressive disability’ who need routine orthopaedic surgery were waiting an average of 40 weeks in July, according to the latest figures. That was more than double the 16.9 weeks of the previous month.

It is the longest average delay – and the biggest monthly increase – ever recorded by the Health Department.

And the number of all patients on the Hospital’s inpatient waiting list has also risen, from 2,062 in March to 2,181 in July.

However, the average waiting time across all specialisms in the ‘routine’ and ‘soon’ categories for inpatient treatment fell from 18 to 12.9 weeks and from 11.4 to 9.9 weeks. There was a small increase in the waiting time of urgent patients from 3.3 to 3.7 weeks.

Claire Thompson, director of clinical services, said: ‘We apologise to anyone affected by having their procedure postponed for any distress caused.’

She said the issue of beds being occupied by patients fit to leave hospital but awaiting care in the community – which currently stands at 41 – was ‘ongoing’.

‘HCS across both its general and mental-health areas has higher numbers of patients who are medically fit for discharge.

This is impacting on the beds we have for elective patients. We are working with the private industry across the care and domiciliary system to identify, support and enable this area to maintain capacity,’ she said.

Earlier this year, Jersey’s medical director Dr Patrick Armstrong said a shortage of carers was putting unprecedented pressure on hospital beds, with patients remaining on wards, even though they were medically fit for discharge.

Health Minister Karen Wilson described the latest delays and cancellations as ‘unacceptable’.

‘I recognise that in some cases this may be due to matters outside of the control of those charged with providing hospital-based services – in particular … the availability of ongoing care and support in the community for those who are medically fit for discharge and workforce supply issues.

‘However, the situation cannot continue,’ she said.

The minister’s response follows a letter she received – also sent to the JEP – from patient Judy Dove, whose knee operation was postponed for a third time.

Mrs Dove wrote: ‘I have just received a letter from the consultant’s secretary informing me that my operation, the date of which had already been changed twice because of problems at the Hospital, has now been cancelled, according to management in the Hospital ‘due to various reasons, mainly staff wellbeing and bed capacity challenges’ and that there is no new operation date in the foreseeable future.’

Deputy Wilson said she would be meeting her officers as a matter of urgency.

‘I can assure Mrs Dove and others who are affected by appointment delays [or] cancellation of operations that they will receive a future date for their operation and action will be taken to reduce the delay,’ she said.

However, Mrs Dove – a private patient – said she had now accepted an offer to have her operation performed in a hospital in Southampton, with her surgeon travelling from Jersey to undertake the procedure.

With a disabled husband, who will go into respite care while she has her treatment, and no other relatives in Jersey, she said this arrangement presented problems. ‘It is very tricky for me and there must be others who don’t have relations in the Island. You need to have someone to help you,’ she said.

Between March and June the average delay for routine trauma and orthopaedic surgery varied between 17 and just under 23 weeks. But in July this increased to more than 40 weeks for conditions which include knee and hip surgery.

However, waiting times for urgent cases and those deemed to require operations ‘soon’ decreased in July from 2.3 and 17.9 weeks, to 1.3 and 11.4 weeks, respectively, according to the latest published information

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