York and Scarborough hospitals are seeing the highest number of patient referrals on record in some departments, as the NHS trust works to recover from the pandemic.
And more than a quarter of cancer patients at the trust had been waiting more than two months for treatment in February, according to the latest figures for urgent referrals.
A spokesperson for the hospitals trust said there has been a “very rapid rise” in referrals to specialists, as patients have started to feel more confident about going to the GP during the pandemic.
They said: “During the height of the first wave of Covid-19, referrals from GPs dropped by 62 per cent compared with April 2019 and by August 2020 referrals were still 10 per cent below those received in August 2019.
“When lockdown was gradually lifted in July 2020 the trust saw a rapid rise in referral rates with patients feeling more confident to attend their GP for assessment.
This saw a return to pre-Covid 19 referral rate levels, and at times exceeding those rates.
“Comparing pandemic and pre-pandemic referral rates to 2021, we have seen a very rapid rise in the first quarter of the year with a record month in March 2021 with some specialities receiving their highest monthly totals on record.”
NHS data for the trust shows that 72.1 per cent of cancer patients with an urgent referral started their treatment within two months – below the 85 per cent national target.
In January the figure was even lower – with almost a third of cancer patients waiting more than two months to begin treatment.
The data is similar to national averages, with a spokesperson for Macmillan Cancer Support saying the latest statistics reveal the enduring impact of the coronavirus pandemic on cancer services.
A spokesperson for York and Scarborough hospitals said: “Even with the high referral levels seen the trust is forecasting provisional 62 day cancer waiting times performance figures of around 75 per cent.
“This demonstrates the significant recovery action being taken within the trust to manage this increased demand and see and treat patients in line with cancer waiting times standards.”
“The trust usually exceeds the national position (England as a whole performance) for the 62 day first treatment target – doing so in 19 of 24 months during 2019 and 2020.”
Health bosses have urged people not to delay booking an appointment with their GP if they have any worrying symptoms.