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GPs roped in to help trust tackle 30,000-patient referral backlog

Exclusive GPs, NHS trusts and private providers are being asked to review referrals and take on patients to tackle a backlog of 30,000 patients waiting for treatment at one NHS trust.

NHS North Lincolnshire and Goole Foundation Trust has apologised to patients for delays which have left around 11,000 patients waiting more than six months for treatment or a post-operative review.

It told Pulse it has already taken measures, including ‘outsourcing’ some work to other NHS trusts and private trusts to ‘reduce the backlog’, running additional clinics, and waiting list audits.

LMC leaders told Pulse that the trust has also asked GPs for help, and that North and North East Lincolnshire – which has a population of around 310,000 – needs ‘significant financial investment’ to prevent services getting worse.

The trust told Pulse that, as of September, it has:

  • 30,240 patients on a ‘Referral To Treatment’ pathway waiting for treatment;
  • 9,373 patients are waiting for a first appointment;
  • around 11,000 patients who have waited more than 40 weeks for definitive treatment, or more than six months beyond their scheduled post-treatment review date.

The Trust is rated ‘inadequate’ by the CQC and a report published this April highlights ‘insufficient oversight’ at board, senior and middle management levels. This has led to the ‘reoccurrence of patient backlogs and a deteriorating overall position with regard to RTT’ and patients waiting for follow up appointments and diagnostics.

Richard Sunley, deputy chief executive of the Trust, told Pulse: ‘I would like to apologise on behalf of the Trust to all patients affected.

‘We have already outsourced some work to other NHS trusts, we are putting on additional clinics in several specialities and an external review of our waiting lists is being carried out.’

It has a clinically-led review process to prioritise the backlog ‘in line with clinical need’, which is chaired by the medical director for NHS England Yorkshire and Humber, and is in talks with ‘local NHS and independent sector providers’.

And commissioners are looking at introducing GP referral peer review, as Pulse revealed NHS England was pushing to roll out across the country.

Lincolnshire pioneered a programme to recruit GPs from the EU to tackle its workforce shortages, and the medical director of Humberside LMCs, Dr Krishna Kasaraneni, told Pulse: ‘They’re also asking GPs to help out and deal with this, reviewing the referrals associated to GPs.’

Dr Kasaraneni said that the region has struggled with workforce in all areas. He added: ‘Without significant financial investment in the local health economy, we feel that the current situation will only get worse and patients who need the NHS, and staff who work in the NHS will feel the effects of it.’

‘The whole system is under tremendous pressure already and GPs will end up having to deal with their own increasing workload as well as supporting other parts of the health service that are also struggling.

‘This is simply not sustainable and the LMC is in conversations locally to address this.’

Pressures in Lincolnshire are already sky-high going into winter, earlier this week Pulse reported that United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust has asked told GPs to consider referring patients to alternative providers outside the county for some specialist treatments.