Preston and Chorley patients waiting for hospital treatment to be asked how they feel

Patients across Central Lancashire whose hospital treatment may have been delayed as a result of the pandemic are to be asked how they now feel about the prospect of undergoing their procedures.

Tuesday, 30th March 2021, 12:36 pm
Updated Wednesday, 31st March 2021, 1:46 am

Healthwatch Lancashire, the independent organisation that seeks the public's views on health and social care services, is planning to survey a random selection of people on the waiting list for so-called elective care.

A meeting of the Greater Preston and Chorley and South Ribble clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) heard that more than 7,000 patients across the three districts have now been waiting for more than 52 weeks for pre-planned treatment. At the start of 2020, just one patient in the area fell into that category.

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Long waits for pre-planned NHS treatment in Central Lancashire have rocketed since the onset of the pandemic

Lancashire Healthwatch chief operating officer Sue Stevenson said that the purpose of the opinion-gathering exercise was to “test the mood of the public” about receiving hospital care in the wake of Covid.

“[It] will help us get a feel about where people’s hearts and minds are about coming back in [to hospital] for operations - perhaps if they have been on the list for a very long time,” she told CCG governing body members.

“That additional intelligence will help [inform] some of the communications processes and support networks that might need to be introduced to support people to come back in to address issues that [might have been] identified a very long time ago.

“[We’ll be] asking some questions - without raising expectations [about when patients will be seen] - around what else might help people to still come in and have those operations.

“Individuals who have identified something as a massive [health] priority, say, 12 or 15 months ago, may actually be sitting in a very different place now for all sorts of reasons,” said Ms. Stevenson, adding that the “emotional response” of patients about attending hospital was missing from pandemic recovery planning in the NHS.

Initially, 200 people will be surveyed from the waiting list of each NHS trust in the region.

The CCG meeting also heard that a triage process for long-waiting patients is establishing a clinical priority order in which they are to be seen.

Across the county, elective treatment is being reinstated after being severely disrupted during the third Covid wave over the winter.

NHS England last week set targets that will see those hospital trusts that meet them entitled to a share of a £1bn recovery fund.

They will receive payments in addition to their core funding if they undertake more than 70 percent of their pre-pandemic elective activity in April, with the threshold rising by five percent each month until reaching 85 percent to cover the period between July and September.

For cancer, trusts will be required, by March 2022, to return to the number of patients that they were seeing within the national 62-day standard to begin treatment in February 2020 - or the national average at that point, if that figure is lower.

Chorley and South Ribble CCG chair Dr. Lindsey Dickinson said that work will be undertaken across Central Lancashire over the next 12 months to better understand “the patient journey” through NHS services and how it could be improved.

“We can very much get hung up on metrics, data and targets - and that’s really important from a statutory obligation perspective - but the patient's experience of our services is ultimately what’s most important to them, making sure they get the right care in the right place at the right time,” Dr. Dickinson said.