Addenbrooke's Hospital to extend weekend surgery to clear backlog
One of the UK's largest hospitals plans to make greater use of private hospitals and conduct more surgery at weekends to cut waiting list backlogs caused by coronavirus, it has emerged.
Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge has 1,600 more people awaiting surgery than it did before the Covid-19 pandemic.
Bosses hope to have 30 of the 37 operating theatres which were running before Covid-19 in use by mid-August.
The hospital's chief executive said its "rebuilding" could take 12-18 months.
While emergency surgery has returned to pre-Covid activity levels, elective surgery was running at about 50% of normal the rate, the hospital said.
Before the pandemic, the hospital had 7,857 people awaiting surgery. By mid-July, the number was 9,480.
"Clearly as we went into the coronavirus period we repurposed quite a lot of the hospital to be able to look after patients with Covid-19," said chief executive Roland Sinker.
"Of our 1,200 beds we turned over 460 of those to create effectively a Covid hospital within Addenbrooke's and the Rosie.
"What we are doing now is keeping some of that capacity for Covid-19 and then reopening and repurposing as much as possible back to providing the care that we need for non-Covid patients."
He said a key challenge would be to use the hospital's capacity "better".
The latest plan included extending weekend lists and greater use of private sector hospitals during the next 18 months.
"We hope we don't go back to the way we ran health and care services the way we did before coronavirus struck," said Mr Sinker.
He said while he would not wish any of the suffering wrought by the coronavirus on anybody, it had given the hospital "opportunity to think about doing things differently".
One example, he said, was in outpatient care, where roughly half of all appointments were being done online.
Such appointments, he said, had been popular with patients.
"In terms of where the waiting lists are at the end of that 18-month period, we are going to moving heaven and earth to get the right care to the right people as fast as we can," Mr Sinker said.
The BBC will be reporting live from Addenbrooke's Hospital from 07:00 until 19:00 on Thursday 30 July.