How coronavirus hit South Tyneside hospital appointments
Disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic led to nearly 200,000 fewer outpatient appointments in South Tyneside and Sunderland last year, new figures show.
NHS Digital data shows South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust still managed to deliver 1,033,145 appointments in the year to March – 197,290 fewer (16%) on the previous year, when 1,230,435 were scheduled.
The figures also show that around 75% of the appointments booked went ahead, but 14% were cancelled by the Trust – which runs South Tyneside District Hospital – with the remainder either not attended or cancelled by the patient.
Dr Sean Fenwick, director of operations at theTrust, said: “COVID-19 had a significant impact on non-urgent hospital services last year and unfortunately like many other Trusts across the country, we had to take the very difficult decision to postpone or cancel a small percentage of outpatient appointments to allow us to cope with the influx of COVID-19 admissions and to maintain strict infection, prevention and control measures.
“Our teams have worked tirelessly to provide more than 771,000 outpatient appointments throughout this timeframe and rapidly deployed telephone and virtual appointment to ensure we could continue to provide care and advice.
"The vast majority of our patients were happy with this approach and we want people to know that the NHS is still very much here for them and we have robust processes in place to keep our patients safe when they come into our hospitals and clinics.”
Nationally outpatient appointments fell by 18% to 101.9 million.
Sarah Scobie, deputy director of research at the Nuffield Trust, said the number of outpatient appointments partially recovered during the summer, but ongoing infection control measures meant the NHS was still struggling to see as many patients as it did pre-pandemic.
She also warned that waiting lists – already at 4.5 million before the pandemic – could grow “significantly further” if cancellations are made this winter.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokeswoman said: “The pandemic has put enormous pressures on the NHS, but we are committed to ensuring people get the treatment they need.
“We have provided record investment to tackle the backlog.”