Hospital chiefs have revealed that vast numbers of patients will face waiting a whole year to receive pre-planned surgeries and procedures.
Across the North West London division of the NHS, only 30 patients were on 52-week waiting periods for non-urgent “elective” treatments.
That figure now stands at “just under 2,000” patients, according to Robert Hodgkiss, the deputy chief executive of Chelsea and Westminster Hospital.
The disruption to waiting times comes after hospitals were forced to reconfigure their wards and multiply the number of intensive care beds for high intakes of COVID-19 patients.
Many doctors and nurses also had to temporarily abandon their specialisms and learn how to look after coronavirus patients.
Mr Hodgkiss said that before the virus arrived, his colleagues at Chelsea and Westminster had “been pushing very hard for the system to be at a place where no patients were waiting more than 52 weeks”.
He added: “In March that number [of patients] was 30 across the whole of North West London. Today that stands at just under 2,000.
“So 2,000 patients waiting nearly a year. That is the scale of the problem we have, to deliver around the elective programme.”
Mr Hodgkiss gave the update yesterday (July 2) at a board meeting of Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, which also runs West Middlesex University Hospital in Isleworth.
A report for the meeting showed that, despite the longer waiting times, the number of people on waiting lists for non-urgent treatments has massively decreased.
This was “due to a cessation of routine elective activity” and because fewer people were being referred to hospitals during the pandemic, the report said.
He continued: “Our patient tracking list, which is our repository for all our patients waiting at the start of Covid, was about 46,000 patients for this Trust. Across North West London, that was just under 200,000 patients.
“Today that patient tracking list for our Trust stands at over 35,000 patients. It’s a significant reduction. And for North West London it’s just under 150,000 patients, so again a significant reduction.”
The board papers also showed that the Trust continued to perform well since March on its target for ensuring cancer patients are seen within two weeks of GP referral.
This was because cancer patients were instead being referred to a “cancer hub” that was set up at the Royal Marsden Hospital, which is also located in Fulham Road, a short distance from Chelsea and Westminster Hospital.