According to data from NHS England, 32,233 were in line for procedures and operations at Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust [MTW] in February 2021.
This is the highest level since the virus hit the UK in February 2020.
And people are having to wait much longer for non-urgent procedures such as hip operations or eye surgery than before the Covid crisis began.
During 2019, around 84 per cent of people waiting for treatments at MTW were seen within 18 weeks – the national target is 92 per cent – and around 28,000 people were on the Trust’s waiting list for non-urgent treatment at any given month.
This has now fallen to just 65.3 per cent of people being seen within the 18-week period, with more than 32,000 on the waiting list.
At the start of this month, MTW announced it was restarting many of its planned, elective and non-urgent treatments at both Tunbridge Wells and Maidstone hospitals, as well as the Crowborough birth centre, after they were suspended during the second wave of coronavirus.
As with the first wave in March last year, when non-urgent services had to be suspended before restarting in August, cancer treatments and urgent care have continued throughout the pandemic.
Indeed, in September last year, the Trust hit its government target for seeing cancer patients within eight weeks of diagnosis for the twelfth month in a row.
In 2019 it had been branded the ‘worst in the country’ for cancer treatment after it failed to hit the target for five consecutive years.
The department at MTW with the largest backlog is currently ophthalmology [eye care], where 6,770 people are currently waiting for treatment. Only 59.4 will be seen within 18 weeks.
Chief Operating Officer for Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust, Sean Briggs, said: “Throughout the pandemic we have continued to provide urgent and cancer treatments and at the beginning of April we reopened all our theatres and resumed routine planned care. Our staff are working hard to ensure we treat patients as quickly as possible and in the past three weeks we have already made some good progress.
“We are also increasing the number of patients seen in outpatient clinics, staggering appointment times and maximising the use of virtual clinics where appropriate, to ensure that those patients who need to be seen face-to-face by a clinician are able to do so safely.”