IT COULD take until next winter to clear the backlog of patients in Worcestershire waiting more than 18 weeks for operations.

A report presented to the governing body of Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust at a meeting on Wednesday, March 26 showed there were currently 1,163 people waiting more than the NHS-mandated 18 weeks for operations.

This has almost doubled since the same period last year when 670 people were waiting and is up from 181 in April 2012.

Although the board previously predicted it would be able to clear the backlog by August, deputy chairman Chris Tidman said at the meeting at Redditch’s Alexandra Hospital that it now seemed more likely this could take up to nine months.

“We came under significant pressure in February,” he said. “This winter we’ve seen more than five per cent more emergency patients than the same period last year.

“We have to be honest and say the health economy winter plan didn’t do what it was supposed to do.”

He said the trust was looking at measures such as employing more temporary doctors to ensure patients got the treatment they needed.

"My prediction was we would turn this around by June, which was the plan, he said. "But now we are probably looking at a longer-term recovery.

"If we don’t look to get this back by next winter we probably not being ambitious enough.

"But it probably is going to be a six to nine month plan."

Last month your Worcester News reported trust board member Andrew Sleigh said the backlog had reached “crisis” levels.

At this week's meeting the trust's chief operating officer Stewart Messer said the board was in discussions with private care homes about being able to use their beds as a 'sub-acute' model of care, but it was unclear if this was going to be feasible.

Board chairman Harry Turner said he felt it was important the problem was dealt with as a matter of urgency.

"I think this is getting very serious," he said.

"We are the big boys on the block and we should be able to influence things.

"We really need to show some leadership here."

But non-executive director Bryan McGinty said: "The issues with A&E at Worcestershire Royal Hospital are not going to disappear overnight

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