Our CEO Sandie Smith welcomes a new Patient Helpdesk that's been set up to answer people's queries about their waits and advise them on how to stay safe.
Early in the pandemic, the NHS postponed lots of non-urgent care, freeing up beds for Covid-19 patients. In addition, Covid safety measures put in place reduced the number of patients many services could see.
As things progressed, people put off coming forward with new symptoms because of the dual worry about putting extra pressure on the NHS and the risk of catching Covid-19 themselves.
Most recently, the struggles of seeing a GP may mean there are even more people who need hospital care who simply cannot get referred in the first place.
New Patient Helpdesk set up to support local patients
The local NHS has set up a new Patient Helpdesk to support people with questions or concerns around hospital or community services appointments they are waiting for.
It launched last week, and is open Monday to Friday, 9am – 5pm.
Call freephone 0800 048 5800
Supporting people locally
We have helped the local NHS to develop the helpline. And will remain part of the steering group to help monitor how it works.
The helpdesk is currently funded until the end of March 2022, but we are asking for it to be extended for as long as it is needed.
“The scale of the care backlog is huge and people have sometimes been left in limbo, struggling to live with a health problem and the uncertainty of knowing when they will be treated.
We are pleased the local NHS has set up the new Patient Helpdesk so that people can be better informed about how long they will have to wait for hospital or community care and know how to keep safe whilst they are waiting. Waiting lists are going to be with us for some time to come as the NHS recovers from the impact of Covid-19.
We will continue to work with the local NHS on this issue, looking at how this service is working, who uses it and asking for it to be extended as long as it is needed.”
Share your experience
Tell us about your experience of waiting for a hospital or community healthcare appointment.
Anything you tell us will be anonymised and shared with NHS and local authority care teams in our area.
And can help them provide better support to people who are waiting for treatment.
How long are people waiting in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough?
Just over one in twenty people (6.7%) are waiting more than a year for routine care according to the latest performance data from the NHS.
With a typical waiting time of 12 and a half weeks at the end of November. However, this varied according to the service, with longer waits in Ear, Nose and Throat and ophthalmology.
With high demand for accident and emergency services, people face long waits in A & E, and there is also extra pressure on hospital beds.
Health inequalities – people in poor areas wait longer
People who live in poorer areas are nearly twice as likely to experience a wait of over a year for hospital care.
This is according to analysis from national health care improvement charity The King’s Fund and Healthwatch England.
And people on low incomes are significantly more likely to report living in pain and struggling to manage work and household chores due to their wait.
How waiting is affecting people
Last year, local people shared their experiences of waiting for care with us as part of a national Healthwatch England project.
Healthwatch England found that it is not just the length of the wait that affects people's experience but the uncertainty too. People want to know they have a date in the diary for their treatment and be able to plan their lives around it.
- Healthwatch research* found that one in three people (32%) had a procedure cancelled at least once (15% more than once).
- Of those who had treatment cancelled, 18% were on the day itself, and a further 29% had it cancelled in the week leading up to it.
*Period of research covered – March 2020 to September 2021 hearing from 2,500 people across England.
National Health and Care Recovery plan needed
Earlier this month, MPs called on the government to publish a national health and care recovery plan by April 2022, warning that tackling the backlog caused by the pandemic is an "unquantifiable" challenge.
The report, Clearing the backlog caused by the pandemic, was published by the cross-party Health and Social Care Committee.
As well as looking at hospital backlogs, it also recommended the need to include the recovery of other services under stress, such as mental health, GP, community and social care.