MORE than 18,000 appointments at Dorset County Hospital have been cancelled or postponed since the start of 2020.

A Freedom of Information (FOI) request sent by the Dorset Echo revealed that in both 2020 and 2021, 9,192 hospital appointments were cancelled or postponed at the hospital - a total of 18,384.

By comparison, that figure was 8,317 in 2019 at the site in Dorchester.

The FOI also uncovered that 384 hospital operations were cancelled or postponed last year, an increase of just under 100 the 286 cancelled in 2020.

Dorset Echo: Covid

However, in 2019 that figure was considerably greater with 590 DCH operations cancelled or postponed.

A spokesperson for Dorset County Hospital cited the pandemic behind the increase in cancelled or postponed appointments, with emergency procedures still dealt with throughout.

The spokesperson said: “The coronavirus response has had a significant impact on the services we can provide to our patients, but we have been working extremely hard to restart activities that were paused during the pandemic.

“Our teams have worked incredibly hard to maintain urgent procedures, and to run as many appointments as possible during the pandemic through telephone and video consultations.

“Inevitably we are now facing some long waiting times for routine surgery within a number of specialities and work is under way to address this backlog with extra clinics and surgical sessions.

“We understand the impact longer waits have on our patients and we apologise for the inconvenience of any delay in treatment.

“The safety of our patients is our top priority and we will prioritise the most clinically urgent patients.”

The spokesperson added that there are ‘rigorous infection control safety measures in place’ which means some ‘planned treatments are taking longer to perform than they did before which is also adding to delays’.

Those who are on a waiting list following a referral are assured the hospital will be in touch as soon as they are able to schedule an appointment.

When questioned on whether there was any timescale or targets for dealing with rearranging appointments or operations, the spokesperson added: "Waiting lists are reviewed and re-prioritised on a regular basis so the most urgent cases are dealt with as soon as possible."