More than 350,000 patients waiting for routine treatment at region's under-strain hospitals

More than 350,000 patients were waiting for routine treatment at the region's hospitals in November as waiting lists rocketed to an all-time high, new figures show.

Walsall Manor Hospital
Walsall Manor Hospital

Thousands of people joined waiting lists for non-urgent elective operations or procedures in a single month, according to NHS England figures.

It comes as hospitals are grappling with staff absences and an increase in demand, putting a strain on services.

Another 1,151 patients joined waiting lists at Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust in November, bringing the total to 27,092 at the end of the month.

While the number jumped by 890 to 31,306 at The Dudley Group NHS Foundation Trust and rose by 314 to 54,685 at the The Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust.

Meanwhile, at Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust 51 more patients joined waiting lists, bringing the total to 52,218 at the end of November.

At University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust, the total figure rose to 184,956 after an additional 785 patients joined waiting lists in a month.

Hospital bosses say they are prioritising emergency and urgent cases but extra lists are being put on for diagnostics, clinics and operations for routine patients.

Diane Wake, elective care lead for the Black Country and West Birmingham, said: "We are working hard to treat patients as quickly as we can across the Black Country and West Birmingham, whilst still looking after a large number who have Covid-19.

"We are working collaboratively to make sure patients are seen as soon as possible, even if it is not at their nearest or usual hospital.

"The public can help us by taking up their vaccines, including having their booster jab, as this reduces the numbers needing hospital care and allows us to look after other patients.

"We also encourage people to see their GP if they have any concerns about their health and not to put off getting medical care.

"We are extremely grateful to our staff who continue to work incredibly hard to provide the best possible care for the people of the Black Country."

A spokesperson for University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust said: “Covid-19 has had a significant impact on waiting lists, however our incredible staff have prioritised urgent care for our patients, whilst treating nearly 23,000 Covid-19 patients.

“We are working hard to increase the number of operations available through opening new theatres, creating extra ward capacity on all hospital sites, innovative enhanced post-operative care units to reduce reliance on intensive care units (ITU) in some complex cases, and increased recruitment – including the recruitment of international nurses to support key areas, such as theatres and ITU."

Waiting lists for routine treatments are also at an all-time high nationally, with six million people waiting for non-urgent elective operations or treatment at the end of November, up from 5.98 million the month before.

Shadow health secretary Wes Streeting said the NHS was unprepared for the pandemic and had no “spare capacity” when the Omicron variant hit.

He said: “Now patients are paying the price, waiting months and even years for treatment, often in pain, distress and discomfort.”

Siva Anandaciva, chief analyst at the King’s Fund, said long waits for care were becoming increasingly common.

He said: “We must remember these are not just big numbers – they are people living with pain and anxiety while they wait for months and, in some cases, more than two years for treatment.”

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