A logjam in the John Radcliffe Hospital’s gynaecology service has caused health bosses to ask GPs to consider sending their patients out of the county for treatment.
Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (OCCG) has suggested family doctors send their patients to Warwick, Northampton and as far away as Reading and Stoke Mandeville to avoid the ‘very long’ waiting list for gynaecology treatment at Oxford.
The plea by OCCG comes a year after it agreed to allow the Oxford University Hospitals Trust (OUHT) to remove consultant-led maternity and emergency gynaecology from the Horton Hospital because of difficulties recruiting obstetric doctors.
All that remains available at the Banbury hospital is weekday, day-case surgery. The Horton used to have a busy gynaecology ward with four consultants and specialist nurses.
When Horton obstetrics became a midwife-only unit last October (on a temporary basis that the OCCG voted in August to make permanent) JR maternity took over one of the gynaecological operating theatres for planned caesarean deliveries.
A mobile theatre was hired at great cost to replace the gynaecological operating capacity.
However in its letter to GPs, the OCCG said: “OCCG’s main provider, OUHFT, is currently struggling to find capacity within this service. Waiting lists are very long and this is causing a backlog which they are now addressing urgently. Please be aware when you are making referrals that excellent alternative providers exist for most areas of gynaecology.
“Many gynaecology referrals to OUHFT are currently beyond the 18 weeks target, due to manpower and other capacity issues.
“Patients cannot be given an appointment when they book, leading to a lot of confusion and backlog, as well as extra work in primary care. If you can suggest alternative providers (your patients) may be seen much more quickly at sites that they would not necessarily consider initially.”
The Banbury Guardian asked the OUHFT if the trust had any plans to transfer any of the cases to the private Manor Hospital as reported to the newsdesk.
In response, Professor Stephen Kennedy, divisional director of OUHFT women’s and children’s services, said: “In common with other trusts we are experiencing an increase in referrals to our gynaecology service. We have seen a 20 per cent increase in the last five years. This is the main factor in increasing waiting times for our services.
“Our specialist gynaecology service is held in high regard locally, regionally and nationally and receives a lot of referrals. In addition, work that used to be carried out by district general hospitals has, since a change of national policy in 2015, been referred to specialist centres such as ours.
“I would like to reassure patients any woman with suspected cancer is seen within the two week waiting time. Unfortunately, other patients are waiting longer at the moment, with waiting times dependent on the urgency of their condition and the type of operation they are waiting for.
“We are exploring a number of different ways of improving the speed with which we see patients, including the possibility of using other providers, but capacity is an issue generally at the moment so this remains under review.
“The extra gynaecology theatre capacity at the JR has been extended until December but this will be reviewed again soon.”