THOUSANDS of operations at hospitals across Oxfordshire were cancelled last year during the two national lockdowns because of the pandemic.

Oxfordshire braced for the effects of the outbreak as an unprecedented number of people who had contracted the virus flooded hospitals.

Covid-19 patients filled the beds at the county’s four major hospitals governed by Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

A Freedom of Information request to the trust submitted by the Oxford Mail has now revealed that 5,655 elective and emergency procedures were pushed back between March 21 and July 4, and October 31 and December 2 at the John Radcliffe, the Churchill, the Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre and the Horton General hospitals.

Nearly 1,500 emergency and 2,675 elective operations were cancelled at the John Radcliffe during the two lockdowns.

The Churchill Hospital, which provides cancer services, saw 30 emergency and more than 300 elective procedures suspended because of the pandemic.

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Only two emergency and more than 700 elective procedures were also cancelled at the Horton General Hospital in Banbury.

Oxford Mail:

Figures for the Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre showed that 18 emergency and 464 elective procedures had to be suspended.

Furthermore, while all three other hospitals saw the numbers decline during the second lockdown, Nuffield had its cancelled procedures rise by almost 100 between October and December.

Jacquie Pearce-Gervis, who is head of the Oxford branch of patient support group Patient Voice, said the numbers revealed were ‘dreadful’ and that ‘questions must be answered’ by OUH as ‘lives are at risk’.

She commented: “It is most unfortunate for the patients concerned that so many operations have been postponed the last two lockdowns.

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“We have great sympathy for these people and hope that the trust is doing everything to reschedule them.

However, Ms Pearce-Gervis also said that no-one had been in contact with her support group to raise concerns.

She added: “We really need some questions answered.

“We would really like to know what the trust’s plans are to tackle this backlog.

“In some places he Government has opened the temporary Nightingale Hospitals to deal with cancer patients.

“Are there any plans to do this in Oxfordshire?”

However, the high figures are not unique to the county.

Oxford Mail:

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Reform – a centre-right think tank that focuses on public services – warned that waiting lists for hospital treatments could more than double by April and hit ten million in England.

During the pandemic, a number of hospital trusts across the UK have stopped carrying out many forms of surgery for periods of time.

While OUH did not comment on the current average waiting times across the four hospitals, a spokesperson said that the trust ‘appreciates’ the patience and understanding of people affected.

Speaking on the latest figures, they said: “We are very sorry for those patients who are waiting for their routine treatment – we appreciate their patience and understanding.

“The NHS has experienced huge challenges with Covid-19 rates in our communities and the high number of positive patients in our hospitals.

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“In order to be able to care for rising numbers of Covid-19 patients and deliver the best possible care we can to our sickest patients, we have focused on urgent and emergency care for Covid and non-Covid patients.

“We have also redeployed staff to treat these patients – as well as maintaining urgent cancer care.”

The trust was not able to confirm how many people are currently on the waiting list for hospital treatments, however, the spokesperson said that OUH is in contact with patients affected by postponed procedures.

In January, the trust was again forced to postpone all routine inpatient and day case elective surgery as it dealt with pressures on beds on wards and in intensive care, and operating theatres.