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New helpdesk to support 85,000 patients waiting for hospital care

A new Patient Helpdesk was recently set up to support thousands of people waiting for hospital and community healthcare appointments in Peterborough and Cambridgeshire.
Healthwatch is asking NHS to continue to fund a new Patient Helpdesk set up to support those waiting for hospital appointments

Local people have told Healthwatch Peterborough they need information and support to help them manage waiting for hospital care. 

More than 85,000 people are now waiting for hospital or community care in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough according to the latest NHS data. With just over one in twenty waiting over a year. 

The local health and care champion has found that people’s experiences on the waiting list are affected by the uncertainty over how long they will wait. And managing their health whilst they are waiting. 

Cancelled procedures are one of the most significant issues reported by patients. And one in five local people who shared their experience in a recent survey had a procedure cancelled at least once — with one in ten cancelled more than once. 

Healthwatch Peterborough also found that most people (71%) were not given any information to manage their condition whilst they were waiting. 

One Peterborough patient told Healthwatch, “Didn't even get an appointment or a referral, was told by my GP a few months into the pandemic that I will be referred when the pandemic had calmed down and eased.” 

Another said, “No communication whatsoever after referral from GP. just silence no acknowledgment that you’re on the waiting list. Could have lost my referral for all I know.” 

However, others reported a positive experience, with one Peterborough person saying, “Our GP at our practice was brilliant. [the doctor] phoned with blood test results and referred my daughter for endoscopy and [to the] rheumatologist.” 

Earlier this month, North West Anglia Foundation NHS Trust that manages Petebrorough City Hospital confirmed, some non-urgent operations and appointments are being postponed at the hospitals due to staffing issues.

Patients from the city raised concerns with Peterborough Matters regarding their scheduled appointments being cancelled by the hospital with little notice. 

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

Now the local NHS has set up a new Patient Helpdesk to support people waiting for care – they are open 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday and can be contacted on freephone 0800 048 5800 

Healthwatch Cambridgeshire chief executive Sandie Smith welcomed the new Helpdesk, and said, 

“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.” 

However, the Helpdesk is currently only funded until the end of March 2022. Healthwatch is calling for it to be extended for as long as it is needed. As patients had previously struggled without information and support. 

Healthwatch Peterborough is keen to hear from more people about their experience of waiting for care. What you tell them will help the local NHS plan better support for people. Call 0330 355 1285 (local call rate) or feedback via their website