By Local Democracy Reporter Ciaran Duggan
Kent’s NHS is to face scrutiny over hospital treatment delays for thousands of patients amid the pandemic.
Around 153,000 residents are on a waiting list to be seen for hospital care in the county, representing a rise of 6% from April 2021, according to the latest data from the Kent and Medway Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG).
Demand continues to increase at Kent’s seven main sites as more than 6,000 patients have been waiting for treatment for more than 12 months. Those with the “highest clinical need” are being prioritised.
Kent County Council’s (KCC) health scrutiny committee will conduct a “deep dive” over the next three months into the actions being taken by the NHS to reduce the growing backlog, it emerged earlier today (September 16).
There was cross-party agreement from Conservative and Labour county councillors on the issue.
Cllr Karen Constantine (Lab), who sits on KCC’s health scrutiny committee, expressed her fears over the hold-up for patients and lack of detail around the long-term solutions.
The Ramsgate member told a panel of Kent NHS leaders and councillors: “We are now seeing appointments being pushed into May 2022 and beyond. This is a staggering amount of outstanding elective operations.
“Sometimes patients are suffering incredible pain and anxiety. Sometimes conditions are worsening, leading to further and more invasive treatment.”
Cllr Constantine called for clarity from bosses at the Kent and Medway’s CCG on their contingency plans to ease the pressure on patients amid Covid, along with a timeline on when the rising backlog will be reduced.
Paula Wilkins, Kent CCG’s chief nurse, said waiting lists are “being looked at” across the 13 districts, including Medway, with some progress being made.
Kent’s CCG told the panel that the average wait time for the vast majority of patients is around 10 weeks.
However, 6,010 people were listed as waiting for more than 52 weeks in June, according to the latest data.
No specific figures have been released for the types of treatments facing the longest delays.
Ms Wilkins said she was unable to provide specific details on how the backlog will be reduced during today’s hybrid meeting at Sessions House, County Hall, Maidstone.
She said: “Some of those plans are still being worked through at the moment.
“But I am sure we can share that with the scrutiny committee once we have confirmed those.”
In response, Cllr Constantine said a “deeper dive” was required, citing the need to look out for her residents.
Cllr Paul Bartlett (Con), KCC’s health scrutiny chair, said a closer review was merited.
It comes as a £12billion tax hike has been proposed to pay more money into the NHS and UK social care from next April. This was announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson last week.
Cllr Bartlett said: “At the next debate, we should have this as a standing item and hear about the waiting times for elective care. I am keen to understand how the four trusts in Kent are going to work together on this.”
The next KCC health scrutiny meeting is due to take place on November 11 from 10am.