HOSPITAL chiefs have thanked those waiting for non-urgent operations for their patience during the pandemic but said rescheduling was ‘not straightforward’ and warned the NHS was still feeling the impact of coronavirus.

It comes after Henry John Blowfield contacted the Oxford Mail about a 'complete lack of information' for his hip replacement operation at Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre, run by Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (OUH).

The 71-year-old, from Grove, near Wantage, who has been waiting since January for the surgery, said shortly before lockdown he had been 'next on the list' but 'understandably' heard nothing once the trust turned its focus to Covid-19.

He said: "However, since the easing of lockdown, I’ve made contact with the hospital twice to ask what timescale I can expect my procedure to occur and got none. I understand the pressure the NHS is under but I just want to know if it'll be a month or a year which I don't think is too much to ask."

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According to NHS rules, patients referred for non-urgent consultant-led elective care should start treatment within 18 weeks.

But the latest NHS figures shows 36 per cent of patients on the waiting list at OUH at the end of April had been waiting for more than 18 weeks – up from 17 per cent in the same month last year.

NHS trusts are normally expected to make sure no more than eight per cent of patients are left waiting beyond the 18-week maximum target.

But non-urgent elective operations – such as hip and knee replacements – were suspended from mid-April to free up beds for coronavirus patients, leading to delayed care for many patients across England.

Sara Randall, Chief Operating Officer at OUH, said: “We are grateful for the patience that people have shown when waiting for their routine procedures and outpatient appointments.

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"Our goal is to keep patient and staff safety at the forefront of all of our plans, and make sure that we reinstate services in a safe and effective way.

“Unfortunately, this is not straightforward. Our consultants are giving priority to those patients who have the greatest clinical urgency and they will be seen first.”

She added: “While we may be past the peak of the Covid pandemic, the impact is still being felt across the NHS. To help mitigate this, we are working closely with all of our partners to maximise all available capacity for our patients.

"We are also continuing to work with the independent sector, which has provided much-needed additional capacity.”

Professor Derek Alderson, president of the Royal College of Surgeons of England said the NHS has coped well with the Covid-19 crisis, but has had to ‘hollow out’ its routine care to do so.

He said: “Patients who have been waiting through the pandemic will very often have been in pain, and the longer some of them wait, the worse their conditions become.

"Elective operations cover not only essential orthopaedic work – giving relief to people in need of new hips, knees and other joints – but life-saving treatment for cancer, heart problems, and neurological disorders.”