There have been some news reports focusing on difficulties patients have had in getting health and care appointments. There are also reports about how staff in health and care are facing a very difficult challenge to meet demand as they catch-up after the pandemic delayed a lot of appointments throughout health and care. Many people have told us that they worry about waiting lists, some think they should perhaps not ‘bother’ the NHS and others have told us that waiting for treatment can be frustrating and it has an impact on their mental health and wellbeing.
Despite the challenges in our current situation it’s still important to make sure you contact your GP or healthcare staff if you have a concern so that they can try to plan your care. If they don’t know there is a problem, they definitely won’t be able to help and often, the earlier a problem can be looked at, the less difficult it is to solve. If you need urgent care, call 111 who will be able to look at what might be available for you. You might also want to look at this information from Healthwatch England.
The following is a short summary of what we know is happening locally.
Waiting lists to see a specialists:
At a meeting in September Richard Jennings, Chief Medical Officer at St George’s University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust told us that they have made progress in their focus on patients who have been waiting for their treatment as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. ‘Elective and day case performance for the month of July was at 95% and Outpatient activity was at 98% of activity compared to the same period in 2019/20', which is ahead of planned progress. Action to tackle the situation included opening a surgery treatment centre at Queen Mary’s Hospital which added four operating theatres for use by surgical teams from St George’s and Kingston Hospitals. You can read more here. There are also plans to open a new ‘diagnostic hub’ and to enhance and expand other diagnostic services to speed up diagnosis, read more here.
Later, at the Governing Body of the NHS decision body South West London CCG it was reported that in July, performance in South West London for planned care was 80.38% (above London overall, 71.8%, and National figures of 68.3%) and that South West London has the lowest numbers of patients waiting over 52 weeks for treatment in London (see report p279-310). However, it was noted that all South West London NHS Trusts had reduction in diagnostic capacity and performance in July and August due to ‘annual leave and unplanned leave (sickness and ‘ping-demic’)’. They said ‘Trusts have mitigated this by utilising bank and agency staff to backfill lists where possible; nevertheless, this has impacted performance for these months’.
Different GP surgeries vary in their approach to managing appointments. Data from NHS Digital for South West London Health NHS shows us that in August 50% of appointments were face to face and 46% were over the telephone. Many patients, particularly those most vulnerable to COVID-19, have said that they prefer the ease of video and phone consultations, and the latest patient survey shows that 83% had a good overall experience at their GP practice in the last year. Information about how long people are waiting for appointments suggests that 46% of appointments happened on the same day as the person tried to book their appointment, 9% happened a day after, 23% happened between 2 and 7 days and 20% happened between 8 and 28 days after the person tried to book (Appointments in General Practice report - NHS Digital).
Face to face appointments have been available throughout and primary care clinicians are seeing more patients than ever. The number of GP appointments in London has increased. In June 2019 London GP appointments stood at 3,139,253. During the height of the pandemic in June 2020 these figures reduced to 2,914,673. And in June 2021 figures stood at 3,993,157.
Share your experiences
As we move into winter patients and staff working in health and social care could face many challenges to manage health and care. Let us know about your experiences by completing our survey Share your views | Healthwatch Wandsworth.