THOUSANDS of people in Oxfordshire are being forced to wait more than four months for surgery as the county’s hospitals struggle to bring down waiting lists.

New figures reveal that more than 8,400 patients have waited longer than 18 weeks for a non-urgent operation.

The NHS says 18 weeks is the maximum amount of time a patient should have to wait with hospitals expected to treat at least 92 per cent of patients in that time frame.

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And while the number of those waiting beyond 18 weeks has fallen, hospital bosses at Oxford University Hospitals trust (OUH) admit it is still well below the NHS target.

The figures show that, as of November, just 82.77 per cent of the 48,841 patients on the waiting list had received treatment within 18 weeks - 640 fewer than in October 2018.

Non-urgent operations could include elective procedures such as hip replacements or cataract removals.

A spokesman for OUH said: “We are pleased to see waiting times shortening for patients who have been waiting the longest for elective care at Oxford University Hospitals.

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“OUH staff – including surgeons, anaesthetists and ward and administrative staff – continue to work hard to make sure that our patients are treated as soon as possible.

"We aim to improve the number of patients getting planned care within the national standard of 18 weeks from GP referral, subject to the availability of funding and staff.

"We have added extra operating sessions to address particularly long waits for gynaecology and urology."

According to the latest figures, the number of patients waiting more than a year for non-urgent treatment had reduced from 199 in September and 136 in October to 93 in November.

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The trust, which runs the John Radcliffe Hospital and Churchill Hospitals in Oxford and also the Horton General Hospital in Banbury, has agreed with regulators to reduce the 52-week waits to 0 by March, which OUH chiefs say they are 'on track to do'.

Hospital bosses have been put under pressure to reduce waiting lists across the country with NHS leaders aiming to have overall waiting lists no higher in March 2019 than they were in March 2018, while 52-week waits should halved.

In September the trust confirmed it had entered into a new contract with private healthcare provider Ramsey Health Care to carry out 500 Gynaecology and Orthopaedic operations to help bring its waiting list down in time for March.

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On top of lengthy waits for surgery, to add to patient woes this month it was reported that OUH had been ordered to improve the condition of its operating theatres after an inspection team raised concerns over patient safety.

The trust was issued with an urgent notice under the Health and Social Care Act to improve the unhygienic conditions which the Care Quality Commission (CQC) said were a potential infection risk.

The trust said a detailed action plan had been drawn up with a spokesman adding: "We are ensuring that the theatre environment is kept clean and safe to use which includes the storage of all equipment and adherence to infection control and cleaning policies."