Fears over treatment delays for elderly Norfolk patients

Dan GrimmerConcerns have been raised that elderly patients in Norfolk are being forced to wait up to six months for specialist services.Dan Grimmer

Concerns have been raised that elderly patients in Norfolk are being forced to wait up to six months for specialist services.

Last week health bosses in the county said they were hitting government waiting targets with all outpatients being treated within the standard 13 weeks.

However, people waiting for treatment at the leg ulcer clinic at Norwich Community Hospital said they had been told the wait could be as long as half a year.

Pensioners are particularly susceptible to leg ulcers due to a lack of mobility or as a result of complications with other illnesses.

One Norwich man, who did not want to be named, said his wife, who is in her 70s, was told she would have to wait four to five months for treatment.

He said: 'She has been in terrible pain with trouble walking. We had our first appointment before Christmas but were told it could be up to six months before she was seen.

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'We heard that health authorities said they were reaching all waiting targets but that is not true. We would be happy if we were seen within 13 weeks but this is not the case.'

Every week, about 700 patients across Norfolk (excluding Great Yarmouth) are seen and treated within the Norfolk Community Health & Care's leg ulcer service.

Many of these patients require long term treatment for their condition, lasting many months and even years. Health bosses have admitted there are delays due to the 'complexity' of their problems.

Laura James, assistant director of NCH&C's community nursing and therapies, explained: 'Some patients have very complex healthcare needs for the treatment of more serious venous leg ulcers. To receive these intensive treatments they have to undergo a full assessment within a clinic. There are about 40 patients on a waiting list for this complex assessment at Norwich Community Hospital's clinic.

'However, this does not mean these patients are not receiving any care for their condition. While they await assessment of their condition they have all been offered the standard treatments for their ulcers within a GP setting or within their own homes by our community nursing team.

'This ensures that any pain and risk of infection is managed, and patients have their ulcers dressed by healthcare staff.'

She added that the patients' treatment was long-term, so the clinics and nurses had an ever increasing workload which could 'sometimes cause delays'.

Department of Health waiting targets mean every patient receiving an inpatient service should be treated within 26 weeks of referral and outpatients should wait no longer than 13 weeks.

Do you have a health story for the Evening News? Call reporter Sarah Hall on 01603 772426 or email sarah.hall2@archant.co.uk