Over half of Suffolk patients aren’t getting treatment within 18 weeks of seeing their GP
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Suffolk has some of the longest waiting times in the country as more than 50% of patients are waiting more than 18 weeks to be treated after being seen by their GP, data has revealed.
A survey by the British Medical Association has shown that in June, only 49% of patients in the Suffolk and North East Essex Integrated Care System (ICS) had received specialist treatment within the national target of 18 weeks.
The average waiting time for the region is 18.5 weeks – the sixth longest in the country, with other areas averaging as low as 11.1 in Derbyshire and Lincolnshire, and as high as 20.4 in Dorset.
Dr Dan Poulter, Central Suffolk and North Ipswich MP, is concerned the mounting backlog of patients is going to get worse before it gets better as winter flu season hits with the threat of a second wave of Covid-19 infections.
“It is incredibly worrying to see how big the backlog is,” he said. “We have a health service which has done fantastically well under the pressure of Covid, but it has meant that routine care and elective services have come to a halt.
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“Within Suffolk there is an older population than average and they tend to have more medical needs and more complex needs, therefore we face a significantly more challenging situation than other areas of the country.
“I also think the situation will get worse before it gets better and the government needs to prepare the NHS for a second wave, but also for the consequences of the first.”
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Chair of the Suffolk GP Federation Simon Rudland, who works as a GP at Stowhealth, said: “Suffolk GPs were aware of waiting times lengthening for some hospital services prior to the Covid-19 pandemic and the situation has deteriorated.
“Primary care has responded by adopting new technologies and consulting remotely in order to continue to safely meet the needs of our patients.
“We are aware that similar new ways of working are also being adopted by hospital colleagues to help them meet their consultation targets.”
Dr Ed Garratt, who leads the Suffolk and North East Essex ICS, said: “There’s no doubt that hospital waiting times have increased as a direct result of the response to coronavirus.
“The hospitals do have robust plans in place and are doing everything they can to tackle this issue, including putting on additional clinics and operating sessions, but we have to be realistic and accept waiting lists will be longer while this backlog is addressed.”