• Cambridge University Hospitals temporarily restricts outpatient cardiology service for out of area patients
  • Leaked letter says decision made to avoid “potential safety concerns”
  • CUH cites increase in demand and staff shortages as reasons
  • Waiting list for cardiology outpatient service rising by 50 patients a week

ACUTE CARE: A prestigious teaching hospital trust has temporarily restricted access to its outpatient cardiology service for out of area referrals, a leaked letter has revealed.

Cambridge University Hospitals Foundation Trust said the move was driven by its waiting list for routine cardiology outpatients rising by 50 patients a week and staff shortages. A leaked letter from the trust and its lead commissioner Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Clinical Commissioning Group said it made the move to avoid “potential safety concerns associated with excessively increased waiting times”.


Addenbrooke’s Hospital

The trust said the move was to ‘bring waiting times back to a safe level’

The trust has told commissioners outside its main Cambridgeshire catchment area that their GP practices should send patients to “a different cardiology provider with immediate effect”. “We are sorry that we need to ask you to take these steps but the safety of patients awaiting treatment is our primary concern,” the trust said.

The most affected areas are Bedfordshire, Essex and Hertfordshire.

The letter, dated 25 February and leaked on Twitter, said the trust was placing a “temporary restriction of access to the outpatient cardiology service” to help it “bring waiting times back to a safe level”.

The trust’s cardiology department was facing “unprecedented levels of demand for outpatient services… chiefly driven by a 52 per cent growth in our rapid access chest pain pathway referrals, which require a maximum two week wait”, the letter said.

It continued: “As these patients are necessarily prioritised in order to achieve this target, the waiting list for routine cardiology outpatients is rising by 50 patients per week, and is currently at 22 weeks. This clearly represents a potential clinical risk for patients who may have significant cardiac disease that cannot be ignored.”

The number of consultant cardiology staff at the trust has been reduced to 3.5 whole time equivalents due to three WTE vacancies, the letter said. Efforts were being made to address this.

The letter, signed by CUH chief operating officer Evelyn Barker and Cambridgeshire and Peterborough CCG chief operating officer Tracy Dowling, said the restriction will be reviewed in three months.

A trust statement said: “This decision only affects patients from outside of Cambridgeshire. Whilst we recruit specialised staff into post we are temporarily referring cardiology patients from out of area to their local hospitals to ensure they receive timely treatment.”