‘We’ve had to cancel thousands of appointments every time there’s a strike’

todayAugust 11, 2023 8

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Nigel Gregson describes himself as lucky. He’s lying in a bed in Coventry hospital after having a cancerous tumour removed from his kidney.

The growth was spotted by chance during an MRI scan in a Philippine hospital where Nigel was admitted to have his gallbladder removed.

The 65-year-old mechanical engineer came back to England for treatment knowing the NHS was under severe pressure and patients including ones being treated for cancer were enduring record waiting times.

A patient on waiting lists

Nigel Gregson

This is when he had his second stroke of good fortune.

Nigel returned home two and a half months ago. He had the operation on Wednesday after suffering just one cancellation.

“Oh, my heart dropped, it was devastating, and I thought, I wonder how long I’m going to have to wait particularly with the industrial action taking place, so I was very lucky really that there was a cancellation and I got in,” he says.

The wait for elective surgery is now longer than ever at 7.6 million.

It’s not just patients who are suffering.

Long waiting lists and cancelled operations are demoralising for surgeons like Uday Dandenkar.

waiting lists

Uday Dandenkar

He says he supports the industrial action being taken by junior doctors and consultant colleagues but warns that unless this bitter dispute is resolved there is no way the NHS waiting list will come down.

“It’s very disheartening, over the last year plus we haven’t really been able to make any inroads into our elective waiting list and there are lots of contributing factors – I think the patient [numbers] that we face who need urgent surgery is growing.”

During strike days, hospitals like this must prioritise emergencies over planned procedures. But the disruption to the hospital will go way beyond the next four days.

Right now hospitals like Coventry should be planning another difficult winter.

Instead the focus for its chief executive Professor Andy Hardy is making sure as many services as possible, however limited, can still be offered to patients.

waiting lists

Professor Andy Hardy

“We’ve had to literally cancel thousands of appointments every time there’s a serious piece of industrial action,” he said.

“This is at a time when we know the waiting list is at the biggest level as we come out of the pandemic – we’re continuously driving to get those waiting times down.

“But actually this is having a big effect in how quickly we can bring those waiting lists down.

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“So every time there’s a strike, we’re cancelling more operations, because we can’t utilise our theatres and our outpatient clinics, so the waiting lists don’t go down as fast as we want them to.”

Nigel knows he’s fortunate to have been seen so quickly.

Many thousands of waiting patients will not be.

Written by: Newsroom

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