The South Tyneside and Sunderland Trust patients waiting eight weeks for treatment

Patients were waiting an average of eight weeks for routine treatment at the South Tyneside and Sunderland Trust in January, figures show.
Embargoed to 0001 Monday January 24 File photo dated 03/10/14 of an NHS hospital ward. Health unions are calling for an inflation-busting pay rise to tackle the NHS staffing crisis and increasing waiting times for treatment. Issue date: Monday January 24, 2022.Embargoed to 0001 Monday January 24 File photo dated 03/10/14 of an NHS hospital ward. Health unions are calling for an inflation-busting pay rise to tackle the NHS staffing crisis and increasing waiting times for treatment. Issue date: Monday January 24, 2022.
Embargoed to 0001 Monday January 24 File photo dated 03/10/14 of an NHS hospital ward. Health unions are calling for an inflation-busting pay rise to tackle the NHS staffing crisis and increasing waiting times for treatment. Issue date: Monday January 24, 2022.

Patients were waiting an average of eight weeks for routine treatment at the South Tyneside and Sunderland Trust in January, figures show.

The Nuffield Trust think tank said thousands of patients on the waiting list across England are suffering in pain, while NHS staff are still dealing with burnout from the last two years.

NHS England figures show the median waiting time for non-urgent elective operations or treatment at South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust was eight weeks at the end of January – the same wait as in December.

This was more than the average seven-week wait a year previously.

There were 44,577 patients on the waiting list in January – down from 44,909 in December, but an increase on 30,099 in January 2021.

Of those, 115 had been waiting for longer than two years.

Nationally, 6.1 million people were waiting to start treatment at the end of January.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid recently announced NHS reforms, which include paying for patients who have been waiting the longest to travel to less busy hospitals or private facilities for care.

But Siva Anandaciva, chief analyst at the King’s Fund health think tank, said these promises will "ring hollow if hospitals throughout England continue to flash red".

He added: "Staff shortages remain the rate-limiting factor in the Government’s ambition to reduce the backlog.

"Without a fully-funded workforce plan, key targets will continue to be missed and people will continue wait longer for the care they need."

Separate figures show 1.5 million patients in England were waiting for a key diagnostic test in January – a rise on 1.4 million in December.

At the South Tyneside and Sunderland Trust, 8,216 patients were waiting for one of 15 standard tests, such as an MRI scan, non-obstetric ultrasound or gastroscopy at this time.

Of them, 2,980 (36%) had been waiting for at least six weeks.

The Nuffield Trust said the latest national figures on the state of the NHS make for "sobering reading", particularly amid a rise in hospital admissions for Covid-19.

Sarah Scobie, deputy director of research at the think tank, said: “Behind all of these figures are thousands of individual stories of pain and suffering, set against a backdrop of burnt out and overworked healthcare staff.

"The question for the Government is how far the reforms proposed will really touch the sides in the face of such long and growing waiting times.

"A renewed wave of the virus just as health and social care services are struggling to get back on their feet could be perilous for any hopes of recovery.”

Other figures show cancer patients at the South Tyneside and Sunderland Trustare being seen on time.

The NHS states 85% of cancer patients urgently referred by a GP should start treatment within 62 days.

And NHS England data shows 85% of patients received cancer treatment within two months of an urgent referral at the South Tyneside and Sunderland Trust in January.

That was up from 79% in December, but down from 87% in January 2021 last year.

The Department of Health and Social Care said its plan to tackle the Covid-19 backlog is backed by a multi-billion pound investment over the next three years, and it will also publish a 10-Year Plan on cancer.

A spokeswoman added: “We will deliver new surgical hubs and at least 100 community diagnostic centres to help patients get the surgery they need and earlier access to tests – including for cancer – delivering an extra nine million scans, checks and procedures by 2025.”