12:45 September 6, 2022
NHS patients on waiting lists in Suffolk feel they are not getting adequate help to manage their conditions, with serious consequences for their lives, a surveillance survey has found.
Health and social care champion Healthwatch Suffolk found that only 39% of patients received support while awaiting hospital care, which has affected their ability to socialise, work and care for loved ones.
The research among 1,400 local patients comes at a time when health services are battling long waiting lists caused by the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Lack of communication was highlighted in the report, with people frequently commenting on the need for better information about their wait for local services, while others reported that the stress and anxiety of ‘not knowing’ was taking a toll on their health mental.
The data also suggested that multiethnic communities may face worse outcomes due to hospital delays, but more research is needed to confirm this.
People who identified themselves as having a diagnosed mental health difficulty, caregiving responsibilities, autism, a disability or a learning disability were also among those most likely to have a poorer experience waiting for care.
The results have prompted Healthwatch Suffolk to ask health and care leaders to think differently about how people awaiting treatment or diagnosis are supported.
Wendy Herber, Independent Chair of Healthwatch Suffolk, said: “Our findings show how people’s lives have been affected in so many ways, with serious consequences for their well-being.
“From financial stress to suicidal thoughts to broken relationships and much more, the impact of delays in hospital care is undoubtedly significant.
“This is why our health and care systems must also look beyond the ‘end goal’ of an operation or procedure.
“While patients may improve physically, the broader impacts of their waiting can have a lasting influence on their lives for many years.”
He called for health systems to “act compassionately” and consider long-term impacts when developing plans, with improvements coming from courageous decision-making and integrated systems of care that work effectively.
Richard Watson, deputy chief executive of the NHS Suffolk and North East Essex Integrated Care Board, which plans and purchases healthcare services, said: “While we look forward to putting behind us those very dark days of the Covid pandemic, which have so negatively impacted For NHS services, the focus certainly needs to be on reducing waiting times for treatment, as well as providing better support for those who are waiting.
“It’s a task that involves all of our health and care partners to make sure this happens and I want to thank the health and social care staff across the patch for their tremendous efforts so far.”
Dr Paul Molyneux, Acting Medical Director of the West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, which runs West Suffolk Hospital, said: “Unfortunately, due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and related issues with maintaining our aging properties, it is taking longer to see patients than we would like and we are sorry to every patient who is having to wait.
“We realize how any delay in treatment can cause frustration, distress and anxiety for patients and their families.
“We will use the insights from the Healthwatch Suffolk survey to help us improve the method, frequency and accessibility of information and communication we provide to patients to help improve their experience while waiting for treatment and care.”