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Patient Stories: Vicky

During the pandemic Vicky has had two hip operations at Addenbrooke's alongside treatment for advanced breast cancer.

Vicky Watts
Vicky Watts, CUH patient

It's been a challenging few years for Vicky Watts, from Southminster in Essex.

Just before the pandemic she had a mastectomy and was worried her treatment for breast cancer would be affected by the lockdown.

However, at Cambridge University Hospitals Foundation Trust (CUH) most cancer services kept going, including Vicky's chemotherapy treatment.

My experience with Addenbrookes has been truly amazing, despite all the pressures of the pandemic

Vicky Watts, CUH patient

Vicky also needed both hips replaced during the pandemic and, having had the first operation in October 2020, is now recovering from her second operation last week.

"The pain can really get you down but the hospital has been absolutely amazing. They have put me first as a patient," she says.

"Being able to spend time with your family after not being able to in the pandemic is massive - huge. What bothers me is having a life and enjoying what time I've got left and making the most of it, not in pain."

With advanced breast cancer, Vicky is one of hundreds of patients for whom surgery is prioritised.

For many others, the wait for planned surgery can be longer, but CUH is doing everything it can to tackle this backlog.

This includes:

  • 500 planned operations being carried out per week
  • Surgical teams working weekends and extended hours
  • Working with other local trusts to use any spare capacity
  • Supporting patients to get in better condition before surgery to speed recovery

However the hospital still has some Covid safety restrictions in place, which means 70 fewer bed spaces available in CUH compared to pre-Covid.

Alongside this, high numbers of emergency admissions has an impact on the number of beds available in the hospital for patients having planned operations and treatment.

James Wheeler
James Wheeler, divisional director of surgery and theatres, CUH

We are doing everything in our powers to get through the backlog patients

James Wheeler, surgeon CUH

James Wheeler, divisional director of surgery and theatres, says staff are tired but that the hospital has made significant progress in surgery.

In the first week of the first lockdown in March 2020 only eight planned operations were carried out; this compares to now when around 500 operations take place every week.

"Any wait is painful to watch. All I can really say is that we are doing everything in our powers to get through the backlog patients."

"However, there are undoubtedly a lot of patients with non-cancer diagnoses, or less urgent diagnoses, all of which are incredibly important, that are going to take us some time to be able to treat and operate upon."

New staff and extra capacity

In the next few months, new staff and extra bed spaces will be coming to CUH. This will help the hospital to carry out more operations and treatments and reduce waiting lists.

Around 400 new nurses and 600 apprentices will be joining, building on what is already one of the most highly skilled workforces in the region.

Early next year a 56-bed unit will open, giving the hospital much-needed extra capacity.

This is part of an on-going programme to provide a total of five extra wards and 116 beds.

T2 with 20 extra beds was opened in the summer.

In the meantime, in what will be a busy winter, patients are urged to get 'flu and Covid booster vaccinations to protect themselves and others from infection.

People can also support the NHS by using the right service at the right time, so that our Emergency Department can keep providing care for people who have a genuinely urgent or emergency healthcare need.