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Bone treatment wait is failing UK target

PUBLISHED: 10:10 14 April 2009 | UPDATED: 13:40 03 July 2010

PATIENTS needing treatment for joint and bone problems are still waiting longer, it has emerged.

The Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital has 1,100 people on its waiting list for orthopaedic treatment.

PATIENTS needing treatment for joint and bone problems are still waiting longer, it has emerged.

The Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital has 1,100 people on its waiting list for orthopaedic treatment. Some have waited as long as 20 weeks, though on average they have been waiting for 13 weeks at the moment.

It was previously reported that the N&N was expected to have met the 18-week national target for maximum waiting time for treatment in orthopaedics, which is one of the busiest departments and typically has the longest waits across the country.

But although it met the December deadline for treating 90pc of patients in 18 weeks across the hospital, in orthopaedics the wait is longer. The January figure was 85.7pc within 18 weeks. The February figures are still being compiled but are not expected to have met the target.

But waiting times have been reduced drastically in the last two years, and the amount of operations done, such as knee or hip replacements and carpal tunnels, has increased by 20pc. The waiting list has been reduced from 2,200 in 2006, through a combination of more work at the N&N and a much greater use of private hospitals in Norwich, King's Lynn, Bury St Edmunds and Cambridge.

The James Paget University Hospital in Gorleston and Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn are meeting the 18-week target for orthopaedics and across the hospital. But the targets do not cover 100pc of patients, and some waiting much longer.

Fiona Simpson said that her sister, who lives in Downham Market, has been waiting for seven months for a painful slipped disc problem to be treated. She said: “If we had the money we would pay for her to be treated privately. There seem to be different waiting lists and too many patients are being incorrectly referred to pain clinics in the first instance.” Her 47-year-old sister had a six-month wait to see the pain clinic, which could not treat the problem itself, and is now waiting for a scan. She is in so much pain she can only work part-time.

At last Thursday's health overview and scrutiny committee, district councillor Nigel Legg complained that all central Norfolk patients have to go through a triage centre instead of being referred directly to a consultant. Dr Legg, who has a hip problem, knew what the problem was and that it required a consultant, but his GP still had to refer him to the triage centre. “Why can't people be referred directly to a consultant if they want to?”

David Stonehouse, deputy chief executive of NHS Norfolk, said the triage centre had GPs and other clinicians on its staff. He said it was an important part of the process because 40pc of referrals were treated outside hospital, for example through physiotherapy.


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