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 February Andrew Grimshaw, Deputy Chief Executive and Dr Richard Jennings, Chief Medical Officer at St George’s University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust talked about progress on supporting patients who have been waiting for their treatmentThe number of patients waiting over 52 weeks has continued to reduce to 938 from 1041 reported in November. They have continued to carry out most urgent and emergency operations and procedures (including for cancer) and diagnostic testing, and other surgery as they are able.. You can read more here from page 5. A new ‘diagnostic hub’ has been opened and there are plans to enhance and expand other diagnostic services to speed up diagnosis, read more here.
According to NHS data up to the end of December, of the patients referred to St George’s Hospital who were waiting to start treatment half of the patients were waiting less than 10 weeks and 92% were waiting less than 33 weeks.
Different GP surgeries vary in their approach to managing appointments. Data from NHS Digital for South West London Health NHS shows us that in December 2021 53% of appointments were face to face and 44% 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 there were 1053 video or online appointments in South West London in December. The latest patient survey showed 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 47% of appointments happened on the same day as the person tried to book their appointment, 9% happened a day after, 21% happened between 2 and 7 days and 22% 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.In June 2021 figures stood at 3,993,157 and in December 2021 there were 3,592, 449 (with 592 494 in Wandsworth).
If you are waiting for a mental health appointment with Talk Wandsworth, more information about what can help you get started is available here.
Future information about waiting times
The Government have announced that they will soon launch a new online service to give patients information about waiting times for surgeries. This will be called ‘My Planned Care’. More information is available here. They also announced measures to try to bring down the waiting lists. This includes:
- More diagnostic centres
- Increasing capacity for more procedures and more scans
- Specialists to help patients get ready for an operation, and quicker access to test results
- Surgical hubs to get more routine surgery completed more quickly
- The right to swap provider if you are waiting too long
More information is available here.
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.