DECREASING the amount of people in Worcestershire waiting more than 18 weeks for an operation is going to be a “long haul”, hospital bosses have heard.

A report presented at a meeting of Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust on Wednesday, April 30 showed the amount of people in the county waiting more than the the NHS-mandated 18 weeks for an operation has risen steadily over the past 12 months and currently stands at 1,633, up from 1,223 in the same period 12 months previously.

The meeting also heard 6.18 per cent of patients visiting A&E in Worcestershire over the past year had waited more than four hours – the target set by the NHS – for treatment, although this was much lower than at this time last year, when the figure stood at 14.22 per cent.

Deputy chief executive of the organisation – which is responsible for running Worcestershire Royal Hospital, Kidderminster Hospital and Redditch’s Alexandra Hospital – Chris Tidman said clearing the backlog would take some time.

“This one is going to be a long haul,” he said.

The trust’s chief operating officer Stewart Messer said staff were working alongside other health bodies in the county to bring down the figures as swiftly as possible.

“We are continuing to keep the pressure on,” he said. “Although I am conscious that I have been saying that for two years now.

“It does impact on our ability to carry out do planned operations.

“We have to take the bull by the horns.”

He told the meeting the trust had set up an agreement with an independent nursing home last winter to use eight of the home’s beds to free up space in hospitals.

“We can no longer continue to tolerate this level of delay,” he said.

“This is about working together and we are sitting around a table with social care with the Health and Care Trust.”

He added whether or not patients could be dealt with within four hours depended heavily on a variety of factors including the nature of their problem and the time of day or week.

At last months meeting deputy chairman Chris Tidman said the backlog could last until next winter.

The trust’s chief executive Penny Venables said a key element of clearing the backlog was improving the way patients flow through the hospital, ensuring they are not left on beds when they did not need to be.

The report also showed the overall amount of people visiting A&E in the county had decreased steadily from about 13,000 last July to slightly more than 10,500 in February, but had had jumped again to only slightly less than 13,000 in March, which Mr Messer put down to a resurgence of norovirus.