Two-year waits at Wigan's hospitals down by more than 90 per cent

Wigan’s hospitals trust has seen the number of patients facing the longest waits for treatment drop by more than 90 per cent since February.
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As part of an effort to clear the backlog caused by the coronavirus pandemic, NHS England committed in February to ending waits of more than two years, except in cases where the patient wishes to delay their treatment.

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New figures show there were 11 patients waiting this long for routine treatment at Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (WWL) as of July 3 – the latest available data – down 91 per cent from 116 at the end of February.

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Across England, the number of patients waiting two years or more fell from a peak of 23,778 in January to 3,548 at the start of July.

Mary Fleming, WWL’s deputy chief executive, said: “Staff are working incredibly hard to tackle current waiting lists.

“Whilst the number of patients waiting to be seen does continue to grow, the trust is ahead of plans to clear the backlog of patients waiting 78 weeks or more before March 2023, as per the commitment to NHS England.

“As at the end of June, 11 patients had waited over 104 weeks for treatment at WWL – in all cases, patients had chosen to defer treatment after being offered dates for surgery. This number reduced to seven during July as patients became available for treatment.

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“While the reduction of 90 per cent is commendable, this must all be balanced with the need to treat the clinically urgent first, alongside pressures such as demand on emergency and urgent care which is being seen across the NHS as a whole.

Patients will be contacted directly when new dates for appointments or surgeries can be offered and it is vital that appointments are kept once a date is given.”

Prof Stephen Powis, national medical director for NHS England, said: "These figures show our hard-working teams across the country are making good progress in addressing the Covid backlogs, with record numbers of diagnostic tests and checks in May, and fewer people facing the longest waits for elective care."

But he warned that more work is needed for the NHS to catch up.

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Prof Powis added: “There is no doubt the NHS still faces significant pressures, from rising Covid admissions, thousands of staff absences due to the virus, the heatwave, and record demand for ambulances and emergency care."

The latest data shows 332,000 patients across England had been on treatment waiting lists for longer than a year as of May – including 1,747 patients at WWL. Nationally, this was an increase of 21,000 from December.

As of May, 41,723 people were waiting to be treated at WWL – with a record 6.6 million people waiting across England as a whole.

Minister of State for Health Maria Caulfield said: “NHS staff have been working incredibly hard to bust the Covid backlogs and have treated more than 15 million patients in the last year.

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“Our ground-breaking community diagnostic centres have delivered over 1.1 million additional checks since July 2021, and the number of people waiting more than two years for treatment has dropped by more than 80 per cent since February.”