What is being done to tackle the waiting list in Derbyshire?

The Covid-19 pandemic has seen the number of patients on Derbyshire's waiting lists for NHS operations and other treatments increase.  In June 2021 there were 84,427 patients waiting for treatment, compared to 62,899 in June 2019.  With waiting lists having increased by 20,289 since September 2020, NHS staff are continuing to strive to return to pre-pandemic levels as soon as possible. Watch this video to find out more.

Planning our recovery
Following the first wave of the pandemic in 2020, we were already in a position where the numbers waiting over 18 weeks had almost tripled in the space of four months (from 11,075 in March 2021 to 32,404 in July 2021), and we set ourselves challenging targets to restart our surgery programme and reduce the number of patients waiting. 

In line with national recovery plans, Derbyshire set a target to be performing 85% of the number of pre-pandemic operations by July 2021. The increase in Covid-19 cases and hospitalisations in January and February 2021 was a significant challenge to our surgery recovery and led to us having to once again postpone all but the most urgent surgery while we converted theatres and recovery suites back to ITUs and dealt once again with an influx of patients who were very poorly with Covid-19.

This resided during the spring, but we also had to be very mindful of not pushing our staff too hard, given the incredibly challenging and exhausting time they have had throughout the pandemic; our staff are amazing, but there is only so much we can expect of them.

Reviewing patients on our lists
Throughout the pandemic period, our clinical teams have been continuously reviewing waiting lists to understand their current position and treatment wishes and prioritise those patients who require appointments, due to the severity of their condition or to limit the long-term impacts of further delays.  Unfortunately, patients who have been waiting a long time but who do not fall into these most urgent categories have seen their waits extend, often well beyond the time when we would usually have wanted to treat them. 

We are determined to bring patients in for their treatment at the first opportunity. We are working hard to limit these really long waits and will reach all our patients, but it is important that we continually assess the referrals and waiting lists to treat the most urgent cases first.

Patient notes are being reviewed by the appropriate clinical teams and we are keeping everyone informed of the current situation. If you haven’t been contacted and are wondering what is happening, please contact the Clinical Administration Officer for the Consultant who is looking after your care to get an update. The overwhelming priority continues to be to provide safe care for both patients and staff.

What can patients do?
We understand that seeing a clinician at hospital or having surgery will provide the desired outcomes for most patients on our waiting lists. If symptoms are getting worse, then patients can visit the Help Us to Help You section of our Joined Up Care Derbyshire website or can contact their Clinical Administration Officer for the Consultant who is looking after their care and let them know as this may make a difference to when they are listed for surgery.

We are also very conscious that while on a waiting list, patients may become anxious about their condition getting worse, and may experience an increase in symptoms related to their condition. 

In these circumstances, there are some steps that patients can take to help to manage their condition before surgery. This will vary depending on the type of surgery you have been referred for, but there are some common steps that can help.

  • Managing pain

Living with pain whilst waiting for surgery can feel exhausting. Everyone is different and will manage pain in different ways, through over the counter painkillers such as paracetamol and ibuprofen, as well as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) which may require a prescription. Other things to try which can help to ease pain, include, using a heat pad or hot water bottle, or alternatively an ice pad or cold compress, self-massage to stretch and ease tight muscles or using a foam roller helpful to relieve stiffness and tension.  Speak to your local pharmacist or clinician for advice on ways to manage pain appropriately for your condition.

  • Exercise

Exercising regularly (even for a short period of time) can help to ease pain, it will make your muscles stronger and help your body to recover post-surgery. It will also improve mobility which can help with everyday movements around the home - from washing to getting dressed.

If your doctor or physiotherapist has given you specific exercises to help you prepare for surgery, try to stick with these.

Listen to your body and if walking is painful, try something else which feels more doable, for example swimming or chair yoga.

  • Eating well

Eating well and managing your weight is one of the best ways to prepare for surgery improve your recovery after surgery. Eating a healthy, balanced diet will also help to boost your wellbeing and minimise the strain on your joints. Information on healthy eating is available from the NHS. Also, stopping smoking with assist you with feeling able to get more exercise and increase your body's ability to cope with illness or injury.

  • Looking after your mental health and wellbeing

Being in pain can have an impact on mental health and wellbeing.  There is a wide range of resources available to help with this on our website.