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Healthwatch Somerset recommends improvements for patients awaiting surgery

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AN INDEPENDENT health and care service has made recommendations to Somerset health authorities to improve their care for patients awaiting hospital treatment.

Healthwatch Somerset recommended improving communication between specialists and their teams and all patients awaiting treatment, and providing more support to patients with individual needs, such as unpaid caregivers.

The recommendations came after 72 patients awaiting treatment at Musgrove Park Hospital and Yeovil District Hospital provided feedback on their experiences through an online survey and interviews. telephone.

A spokesperson for the Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) thanked Healthwatch Somerset for providing “valuable insight into the impact that long waits can have on our patients within the system” and said work was underway. course “to develop our prevention programs to help support people while waiting for treatment”.

NHS England’s maximum wait time for non-urgent, consultant-directed treatment is 18 weeks from referral.

However, 48 of 72 patients (65%) who responded said they had waited more than 40 weeks for treatment.

The Healthwatch report found that the lack or absence of communication between specialists and patients was “a common theme among those who responded to the survey.”

“Many patients” also said they experienced “deteriorating condition, reduced mobility and mood swings, which impacted their daily lives.”

MUST-HAVE: A joint Somerset and Yeovil NHS Foundation Trusts statement said staff were working ‘exceptionally hard to implement practical measures’ to improve communication with patients (Image: Google Maps)

Some patients (35 of 46 who commented) said they depended on family or friends to help them with daily chores while they waited for treatment.

At the end of March 2021, 6,382 people in Somerset were awaiting planned surgery, an increase of 62.1% from March 2020.

Despite patient backlogs and other challenges caused by the pandemic, 2,568 surgeries were performed in Somerset in March this year.

Nationally, 5.7 million people are awaiting hospital care.

West Somerset patient Sybil, 86, who lives alone, told Healthwatch Somerset she had waited 17 months for a hip replacement.

Sybil, who had a leg amputation in 2008, was referred to Musgrove Park hospital in October 2019 and saw a surgeon in February 2020 – but the pandemic has delayed her treatment.

His operation took place seventeen months later, in March 2021.

While she waited, she called the hospital admission line and the surgeon’s office every two weeks to ask for progress updates.

Sybil said: “The wait time was appalling. I was in constant pain and sometimes thought I couldn’t go on anymore. I felt suicidal in December 2020.

“Due to my amputated leg, I use mobility aids to move around, but I developed a shoulder injury that was so painful I couldn’t move.

“I had lost a lot of my independence and had to turn to pain relievers for pain relief while waiting for surgery.”

Somerset County Gazette: WAITING TIME: Sybil, 86, found her "independence and joie de vivre" after waiting 17 months for surgeryWAITING TIME: Sybil, 86, has regained “her independence and zest for life” after a 17-month wait for surgery

She added: “When the day finally came, I felt extremely well taken care of by the NHS. The operation also went very well.

“I have now regained my independence and my zest for life. You wouldn’t even know there had been something wrong with that hip.”

The Healthwatch Somerset report recommended improving communication with patients by providing more frequent updates and information on their care plans, and by giving patients a ‘package’ of information including FAQs, advice and contact details for care services and support groups.

The service also recommended that specialist treatment teams work with general practitioners to check patients’ health “regularly and systematically” to identify potential problems and to intervene quickly with treatment and support.

Unpaid caregivers should be identified and given additional support to help them manage their own health and well-being because of its implications for those they care for, Healthwatch Somerset said.

The report, ‘The impact of wait times for NHS surgery in Somerset‘, offers solutions and presents patient feedback and experiences.

Gillian Keniston-Goble, Head of Healthwatch Somerset, said: ‘Measures are being put in place by the NHS to tackle the backlog, but long waiting lists are expected to continue for some time due to demand increased unprecedented service.

“People who wait long are of particular concern, as it increases the potential for patients to develop additional problems with their physical health and emotional well-being.

“While waiting lists are inevitable, it is clear from our research in Somerset and national research by Healthwatch England that what matters is how wait lists are managed.

“Patients need more information and better support while they wait to avoid deterioration of their health and well-being. ”

A Somerset CCG spokesperson said: “Along with our recovery plan program, we have been working together to develop our prevention programs to help people wait for treatment.

“The survey has already had a significant impact on the improvement work that is being done by our Acute Trusts and the CCG will continue to work with all providers to support further improvements for the benefit of our patients.”

A joint statement from the Somerset NHS Foundation Trust and the Yeovil District Hospital Trust added: “While the increase in patient wait times for their scheduled surgery has been inevitable, it is important that we remember the impact very real these expectations on each patient individually and we welcome the Healthwatch report in providing this insight into people’s experiences and recommendations on how to improve our communications with these patients.

“Reducing these expectations is a key priority and we would like to thank all of our staff who are working exceptionally hard to implement practical measures to make a difference in these extraordinary times.

“We recognize the importance of communicating well with our patients and, since the report concluded, we have taken a number of actions for those who wait the longest, with plans to develop this further, while balancing demands on our services.

“We are committed to working in partnership with patients and their families. ”