THE number of patients waiting for treatment at the trust which runs Andover hospital has reached a record high, but health chiefs are working on solutions to reduce the backlog.

Throughout the Covid pandemic NHS trusts across the country have sought innovative ways to help the ever-growing waiting lists, with video and telephone consultations, and relocating various departments.

Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Winchester, Basingstoke and Andover hospitals, used private facilities such as the BMI Sarum Road Hospital in Winchester and The Hampshire Clinic in Basingstoke to allow services to continue while coronavirus patients were treated.

However, huge waiting lists have built up during the pandemic, figures from NHS Digital have revealed that 44,096 patients were waiting for elective operations or treatment at the trust at the end of June – up from 43,219 at the end of May.

This was also 24 per cent more than a year previous, and the highest figure for the month of June since comparable records began in 2012.

The trust is fighting back in a bid to reduce waiting lists by utilising a number of methods.

Dr Lara Alloway, chief medical officer, said: “Like others, we have seen an increase in the number of patients on our waiting lists as Covid-19 continues to impact how we work, and our staff are working incredibly hard to care for everyone who needs us and reduce the number of patients who are waiting for treatment.

“A number of steps have been put in place to increase capacity in our hospitals and allow patients to be treated safely, as quickly as possible. This includes running additional operating theatre lists, diagnostic sessions and outpatient clinics, and, where clinically appropriate, working with our partners in the independent sector for patients to be treated in local private hospitals. Alongside this, Hampshire Hospitals is continuing to invest in new equipment and training to support our staff and deliver the best possible care to our patients.”

In signs of progress, the number of patients listed for routine treatment at the end of June, who had waited at least 18 weeks, had fallen slightly from 13,555 at the end of May to 13,316.

However, there were 1,852 patients waiting at least a year for treatment in the most recent month's data.

As part of its battle to reduce waiting times, the trust has recently announced that it will expand its mental health services with new expert roles, extended services and outreach programmes.

Following on from the creation of the new role of lead nurse for mental health in 2020, it has now put in place specialist mental health clinicians to work alongside patients on wards.

It is now also working to expand collaborative work with local mental health services and charities.