Thousands have waited longer than a year for treatment – and there will be more

Thousands of patients have now waited longer than a year for hospital treatment in parts of Greater Manchester due to delays caused by Covid.

More than 8,000 patients were on hospital waiting lists for longer than 12 months in Salford, Oldham, Rochdale and Bury at the end of March.

Chiefs at the Northern Care Alliance (NCA), the NHS group which runs Salford Royal, Fairfield General, Rochdale Infirmary and Royal Oldham, have spoken of the ‘extraordinary’ challenge they face in tackling the backlog that has built up.

And they are preparing for more patients to come forward after the pandemic.

Chief executive Raj Jain (pictured below) told the board at a meeting on Monday (April 26) that this year will be like no other for the NHS as it tries to recover from Covid-19.

He said: “This is about tens of thousands of patients and their lives.

“This is about tens of thousands of staff and what they’re doing day in, day out to restore the NHS back to where it needs to be to serve the public of this country.”

Chris Brookes, the NCA’s chief medical officer told the board that hospitals across Greater Manchester have worked together during the pandemic to prioritise patients according to clinical needs, urgency and waiting times.

But Mr Jain said that hospitals have been told they should also take into account ethnicity and deprivation in their plans to restart NHS services.

The 59-year-old, who recently announced he would retire, said the work the NHS faces is of a scale and complexity that has never been achieved before.

He added: “We are trying to understand what the true level of demand is because we know there is latent demand in our community that’s been building up that’s yet to come to our organisation in addition to what we’ve already got on our books – the patients that are waiting.

“We know that staff availability – their motivation shouldn’t be questioned in any shape or form – but their resilience, we need to have uppermost in our minds.

“We need to look at the details of the estate and the equipment that we’ve got to make sure they’re fit for purpose.

“And we need to be mindful that there will, in all likelihood, be a further surge of the pandemic.”

Chief delivery officer Jude Adams told the board that around 3 pc of hospital services are being outsourced to the private sector, but this could rise to 5 pc.

Mr Jain expects the NCA to be in a ‘more reasonable’ position by the start of the summer, but he said the situation over the next 12 months will be ‘fluid’.

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