Our Chief Medical Officer Alastair Hutchison gives an overview of how we are working to address waiting times at Dorset County Hospital.
The coronavirus response has had a significant impact on the services we can provide to our patients, but we have been working extremely hard to restart activities that were paused during the pandemic.
Our teams have worked incredibly hard to maintain urgent procedures, and to run as many appointments as possible during the pandemic through telephone and video consultations.
Inevitably we are now facing some long waiting times for routine surgery within a number of specialities and work is under way to address this backlog with extra clinics and surgical sessions.
We understand the impact longer waits have on our patients and we apologise for the inconvenience of any delay in treatment. The safety of our patients is our top priority and we will prioritise the most clinically urgent patients. We have rigorous infection control safety measures in place to protect both our patients and our staff. As a result of these measures some planned treatments are taking longer to perform than they did before which is also adding to delays.
If you are on a waiting list for an appointment but haven’t heard from us since your referral please be assured we will be in touch as soon as we are able to schedule your appointment.
The hospital specialty team that you have been referred to will be in touch from time to time to check if any of your symptoms have changed, and to check that you still wish to proceed with your appointment or procedure. Our waiting lists are reviewed and re-prioritised on a regular basis so that the most urgent cases are dealt with as soon as possible.
If your condition deteriorates significantly at any point, then you may wish to get in touch with your GP practice for further advice.
You can also contact our Patient Experience Team for more information, advice and support. You can find their details and contact information here.
Please ensure you are able to make any surgical procedure date you accept and give us at least seven days’ notice if you need to cancel so that we are able to offer your slot to someone else who is waiting.
In order for us to book your procedure date it is a requirement of the hospital that you have a COVID-19 test swab three days prior to your procedure. Once you have had your swab you are required to isolate in your home until you are admitted to the hospital for your procedure. These instructions are for your own safety as well as protecting our other patients and staff at the hospital and we hope that you understand the importance of this. There are some exceptions to this requirement but you will be advised whether you need to have a swab when our admissions team telephone you to book your date.
Information and advice for people waiting for treatment
When you are waiting for further treatment it can sometimes feel like a long wait. The information and advice here is aimed at helping you manage that wait so you arrive for your appointment in the best possible physical and mental health.
The NHS has limited resources which means that we are unable to treat you as quickly as we would like. Each healthcare provider has to consider the type of help you need, how quickly you need treatment, the best course of action to help you and when and where you can be seen.
The process of sorting patients based on their individual needs is called prioritisation. The system of prioritisation is applied consistently across the NHS to help us to decide the order in which patients receive their treatment. This is essential to ensure that we provide care based on need. The system means that care is delivered in the fairest way possible.
Once a referral has been made from primary care to secondary care, the specialist team conduct assessments and then agree with you on the right course of action. At this stage, the urgency will be assessed. If you have a long-term health condition, for example, you may need treatment faster than someone without.
Prepare yourself for surgery
‘Prehabilitation’ is all about good preparation for your body and mind prior to surgery. In the time before your surgery, you can take simple steps to improve your physical and mental health. This will reduce your risk of complications and improve your wellbeing now and in your recovery.
Research shows that people who keep mentally or physically active feel happier and so become healthier. Maintaining and improve your overall wellbeing will lead to a faster recovery if you require surgery.
Once you are referred by your GP the waiting journey begins. Make the most of the time before you see your specialist.
Top of the list of things to work on are stopping smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, getting fitter and drinking less alcohol. LiveWell Dorset is a local service which can offer you support to tackle all or any of these, or have a look at the Better Health website.
Looking after your mental health is just as important as your physical health. Dorset HealthCare provide our local mental health services and can offer support for a wide range of mental health issues.
For more information and advice you can watch the helpful video below from the Royal College of Anaesthetists - Preparing for surgery: Fitter Better Sooner
LiveWell Dorset support
Funded by Public Health Dorset, the LiveWell Dorset service is free for all adults living in Dorset. You can register online, call them, or you may be referred by health professionals.
Why is it free? Public Health Dorset is a partnership of Dorset Council and BCP Council. They partner with Dorset's local authorities, the NHS and others to provide this FREE healthy lifestyle advice and coaching.
Better Health website
Healthy changes start with little changes. Whether you want to lose weight, get active or quit smoking, Better Health is here with lots of free tools and support. You can also find simple ways to lift your mood with Every Mind Matters.
Mental health support
It is estimated that one in four of us will experience mental health problems during our lives. Dorset HealthCare provides a range of services to help people through their illness and towards recovery. They aim to empower you, or your loved one, to achieve your goals and lead a fulfilling life.
They have specialist, experienced staff who provide care and treatment for conditions such as depression, schizophrenia and eating disorders; conditions such as Asperger's Syndrome and dementia; drug or alcohol dependency, and problems relating to pregnancy and childbirth. They offer specific help for children and young people, as well as people with learning disabilities.
Many of these services require referral from a GP or another health/social care professional. If you do not meet the criteria for support, the professional should be able to signpost you elsewhere for help.
You can find a full list of local mental health services on Dorset HealthCare’s website here.
Waiting with pain
We know the longer we are in pain the more our bodies become used to generating pain. This is a difficult concept to understand for both patients and clinicians alike. We refer to this as chronic or persistent pain. Many of us suffer with this type of pain and frequently no medical underlying condition or cause can be found. In this circumstance our focus turns to understanding and managing the pain.
If you find yourself waiting for a medical assessment or procedure then hopefully there may be a more definitive outcome to look forward to, but inevitably, through no fault of your own, some of the chronic pain processes may be developing in the background. It may be helpful therefore to consider this whilst waiting and adopting some of the pain management strategies that is about reducing the sensitivity and turning down the pain 'volume'.
- Learning about pain
- A healthy lifestyle
- Doing what matters
- Emotional wellbeing
Learning about pain
Learning about your pain can help to give you a better understanding about different self-management strategies you may be able to adopt whilst living with your pain. Everyone's pain experience is different and everyone has different goals they would like to work towards - therefore, having knowledge around your condition can help you increase your confidence when making decisions around what to change and how to take control back of your life.
A healthy lifestyle
By looking at how we can build a healthy lifestyle we can increase our energy and function, to give us a better chance of managing chronic pain. For example, pain can often disrupt sleep patterns, leaving us feeling more fatigued and irritable than we already do. Lack of sleep impacts our emotional state, psychological wellbeing and physical performance, all of which contribute to an increase in pain. By learning about sleep and trying different tools to improve sleep, such as relaxation, activity, position and medications, we may be able to improve our sleep patterns and in turn give us a better chance of managing our pain.
Doing what matters
As explained by the downward spiral of chronic pain, it’s only natural that people find it hard to continue to do the things that matter in life. It is often the pain that stops people doing things they value, not forgetting the added stressors that pain can cause such as fatigue, stress, anxiety, depression, fear and low self-confidence.
It is really important that we try to continue to do things we enjoy despite the pain, to help us improve our quality of life. This may seem impossible at first, which is where goal setting can be really useful. Small and achievable short term goals can allow us to work towards realistic long term goals. Achievable goals can also help to improve our confidence and sense of self-worth.
As you may be aware, pain can affect the way we think, feel and behave, this can also have an impact on our pain - which is why we look at ways to manage our thoughts, feelings and behaviours. From the ‘learning about pain’ section you may be aware that our mind effects our body and our body effects our mind. An example of this can be, if we are stressed because our condition is making it harder to juggle family, work or home life this can often manifest into stress. The added stressors of life that pain can cause include fatigue, muscle tension, sleep problems, stress, anxiety, depression, fear, guilt, low mood, feeling unworthy and low self-confidence - all of which are not helpful to anyone as they can ‘wind up’ our pain system. If we can use resources to catch negative thoughts or learn how to communicate your needs, for example, you may be able to start to reserve energy to use in a positive way.
Download the NHS App
Owned and run by the NHS, the NHS App is a simple and secure way to access a range of NHS services on your smartphone or tablet, including appointments and referral information.
You can also access NHS App services from the browser on your desktop or laptop computer. To find out more go to nhs.uk/app