A TARGET to treat patients within 18 weeks of referral has been missed in four specialist surgery areas at Southend Hospital.

As part of the NHS constitution pledge and its contract with NHS South East Essex, 90 per cent of admitted patients and 95 per cent of non-admitted patients should not wait for longer than 18 weeks for elective treatment.

In June, the hospital was on track to meet this by October.

However, in a report to the board of directors, it has been missed in surgical specialities including urology, orthopaedics, general surgery and ear, nose and throat with 150 patients waiting.

Currently, there are 77 patients waiting more than 18 weeks for orthopaedic surgery, 42 patients waiting more than 18 weeks for general surgery and 22 patients waiting for urology.

Voluntary extra weekend operations were carried out for orthopaedics in the last financial year to deal with the backlog, but less have been carried out this year.

There have also been long-term staff sickness in general surgery, a vacancy in ear, nose and throat and greater demand for surgery for cancers In the report Malcolm McFrederick, director of operations, said: “Of these surgical specialities, orthopaedics and general surgery present the largest challenges after a deteriorating position during August.

“The intent following informal discussion with NHS South East Essex is to move the target to the end of the financial year, recognising financial efficiency and potential winter pressures.”

The report suggests stricter monitoring should be brought in to check demand and capacity more frequently.