PERFORMANCE: More than 200 patients have been waiting over a year for spinal surgery at North Bristol Trust, figures for December reveal.

The NHS England figures come despite a trust decision in October to close the service to new referrals in an effort to manage and reduce its waiting time backlog.

The December figures, which are the latest available, show that orthopaedics patients account for 201 of the 247 people who were waiting over a year for elective treatment.

In October the trust disclosed that 186 spinal patients had been waiting over 12 months. The following month saw 188 patients referred for spinal surgery also waiting a year.

When the initial announcement to refuse new referrals was made last year, a trust spokesman said: “The trust’s orthopaedic spinal surgery service has changed its GP referral criteria and is currently not accepting new adult routine (non-urgent) referrals.

“Nationally, there has been a steady increase in the numbers of referrals in this field, with few hospitals across the country offering this complex spinal service, combined with a shortage of experienced spinal surgeons.

“As a result, at North Bristol NHS Trust this situation has led to a number of patients from across the region waiting more than 12 months for surgery which we consider to be unacceptable.

“With every new additional referral, there is a risk that existing patients could get moved further down the waiting list as clinical re-prioritisation takes place.

“Our first duty has to be for our patients we have already accepted onto our waiting list. The altering of our referral criteria will mean we can work through the backlog, as well as carrying out new urgent and emergency cases, with the aim of restoring the service fully within 18 months.”