ALL non-emergency operations will be moved away from the city’s hospital in an attempt to cut the huge backlog for treatment and cut long waiting times.

The county’s health bosses have agreed to a plan which will see only emergency and vascular operations performed at Worcestershire Royal Hospital in Worcester with the rest moved to the Alexandra Hospital in Redditch and Kidderminster Hospital by the end of May.

NHS England has tasked the county’s hospital trust with cutting the longest waiting times – which includes 18-month delays and two-plus-year waits – for all ‘planned’ hospital appointments and treatment.

READ MORE: Worcestershire hospital boss 'fearing prison time' over A&E chaos

The ever-mounting wait for care has built up since the Covid-19 pandemic when a decision was made to pause all non-emergency care – with hospital staff told to focus only on treating the virus, most planned operations and cancer treatment.

A ‘recovery’ plan, which was published by the NHS in February last year, called for all two-year waits for care to be “eliminated” within six months, 18-month waits to be removed by April this year and year-long waits to be wiped out by March 2025.

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The target before the Covid-19 pandemic for GP referral to treatment was 18 weeks but astonishingly the hospital is now having to battle to make sure people are seen within a year for some treatments.

Worcester News:

Matthew Hopkins, the chief executive of Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust, said two-year waits had been “largely eliminated” last September and the trust is currently focusing on cutting 78-week-plus waits before attention shifts to cutting 65-week and then year-long waits.

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Mr Hopkins, who has revealed the trust’s biggest priority was cutting waiting times even if this came at the expense of balancing the hospital’s budget, said the biggest challenges to cutting wait times were staff shortages as well as previous and pending strikes by hospital staff.

The acute trust boss said recent industrial action – which saw junior doctors strike for 72 hours straight earlier this month – had caused “significant problems.”

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Junior doctors are also due to strike for four days as part of a 96-hour walkout between April 11 and 15.

“To be honest the main constraints are our theatre nurses because there is a challenge,” Mr Hopkins told Worcestershire County Council’s health and overview scrutiny committee on March 13.

READ MORE: Patients in corridors at Worcestershire Royal hospital

“As the NHS looks to gear up elective capacity, theatre staff will be the group that becomes the sought-after nurses and allied health professionals…  We have done quite well with overseas recruitment into theatres, that is going to be a particular challenge if we are increasing the actual quantum of operating theatres and lists.

“We’re going to need more staff.”

READ MORE: Ambulance boss warns of impacts of long delays at Worcestershire Royal Hospital

Bosses are looking overseas to fill the gap with the vacancy rates for nurses at the trust at around eight per cent – up from five per cent after more posts were created – and a recruitment drive in the Philippines is said to be “going well.”

Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust is also building two more operating theatres at the Alex to add to the seven theatres already in place. A further four theatres will eventually be built in Redditch with a completion date so far unknown.

The trust said its plan to separate its care in this way was in line with best practice guidance and would lead to shorter waiting times and reduce the risk of cancellation.

It would also help the recovery from the impact of the pandemic and ease pressure on urgent and emergency care, the trust said.