NEARLY 750 patients are still waiting for treatment more than 18 weeks after being referred to the Great Western Hospital.

As of August 18, 733 patients had not been seen by a consultant or been booked for an operation in the required four and a half months.

The previous June, the number of patients left in limbo had reached 1,029.

And the backlog remains considerable with 3,803 patients on the the waiting list for treatment.

While increased demand generally has left the hospital struggling, the failure to meet its 18-week wait target is by no means endemic to Swindon, according to GWH.

“We have experienced an increase in the number of patients waiting longer than 18 weeks to be treated,” said Kevin McNamara, director of strategy.

“There are a number of factors which have contributed to this issue alongside the increase in demand, in particular during the winter period – elective activity over the winter was reduced to manage the significant emergency pressures being experienced.

“This increase has been experienced primarily in Oral Surgery and general growth across other specialities.”

In order to cope, the hospital took the decision to focus on those awaiting treatment and therefore knowingly fail its 18-week target. It has now received a share of £250m from Government to allow it to tackle its waiting list.

“To resolve this, the board took a decision in May to implement a Referral to Treatment action plan to reduce the backlog,” said Mr McNamara.

“In essence this means that the Trust has taken the decision to fail to meet the quarter two RTT target so that we are able to treat all of those patients who are overdue treatment. The plan means that by the end of September all of these overdue patients will have been treated.

“Trusts nationally are experiencing similar pressures and since we took this decision in May, the government has released £250m of national funds to support Trusts in reducing their waiting list backlog to bring them back in line with the 18-week target.

“At the same time, to build resilience going forward, we have completely revised our Elective Access, Booking & Choice of Date Policy.

“This will ensure a much more robust approach to the way in which we manage elective patient pathways, reduce inefficiencies and maximise the use of available capacity via the effective booking of out-patient clinics, diagnostic sessions and theatre lists.

“It will also ensure that patients are treated in strict chronological order, taking account of their clinical priority.”