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PCH postponing some non-urgent appointments amid staffing issues

Some non-urgent operations and appointments are being postponed at our hospitals due to staffing issues, the North West Anglia NHS Foundation Trust (NWAFT) has announced.
Peterborough city hospital
Peterborough City Hospital. Photo: John Baker

The trust manages Peterborough City Hospital, Hinchingbrooke hospital and Stamford and Rutland hospital - and patients from the city have raised concerns with Peterborough Matters regarding their scheduled appointments being cancelled by the hospital with little notice. 

Earlier this week, MPs across the nation warned the “catastrophic impact” of the Covid pandemic on patients waiting for NHS treatment is clear, but plans to tackle it could be derailed by emergency care demands and a lack of staff. 

PA news reported, the record number of people on the waiting list for planned care in England – almost six million – is likely to grow but, at the same time, the NHS is also dealing with a record number of 999 calls and long waits to be seen in A&E. 

In its new report, the cross-party Health and Social Care Committee said that tackling the wider backlog caused by the pandemic is a major and “unquantifiable” challenge as it includes all the people who have yet to come forward for care. 

It calls for a broad national health and care recovery plan embracing emergency care, mental health, GPs, community care and social care. 

In Peterborough, one woman told PM: “I received a call from Peterborough City Hospital on New Year's Eve cancelling an orthopaedic appointment on Tuesday January 4. 

“I was informed that ALL outpatient clinics and theatre lists were cancelled this coming week.” 

Some maternity patients have also told us they have been facing delays in accessing appointments with their midwives due to staffing issues. 

The trust has apologised for the frustrations these cancellations are causing but says they are committed to “managing the situation”. 

Phil Walmsley, chief operating officer at NWAFT, said: “Like many hospitals, we are experiencing higher-than-usual levels of staff sickness at the moment due to the increase in community infection rates.  

“However, we have robust escalation plans in place, including redeploying staff to areas that need additional support, to ensure that we can manage this situation.

"I can confirm that we have had to postpone some non-urgent appointments and operations as a result of this, but we will continue to review this on a daily basis and are operating safely to ensure that our patients continue to experience good care.  

“I would like to apologise for the frustrations that this may cause some of our patients who have been awaiting appointments, we will reschedule these quickly and I would also like to thank our staff for stepping up to fulfil additional shifts to ensure we can minimise any rota gaps during this time." 

Health and Social Care Committee chairman and Tory MP, Jeremy Hunt, said: “The NHS faces an unquantifiable challenge in tackling a backlog of cases caused by the pandemic, with 5.8 million patients waiting for planned care and estimates that the figure could double by 2025. 

“However, our report finds that the Government’s recovery plans risk being thrown off course by an entirely predictable staffing crisis. 

“The current wave of Omicron is exacerbating the problem, but we already had a serious staffing crisis, with a burnt-out workforce, 93,000 NHS vacancies and no sign of any plan to address this. 

“Far from tackling the backlog, the NHS will be able to deliver little more than day-to-day firefighting unless the Government wakes up to the scale of the staffing crisis facing the NHS, and urgently develops a long-term plan to fix the issue.”