WEEKEND operations, private treatments and a third MRI scanner are just some of the actions being mooted at St Mary's Hospital to help catch up with the backlog caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

As the Island's only hospital tries to recover from the effects of coronavirus, some services are getting a boost.

Solutions are being introduced to help the Isle of Wight NHS Trust after some services stopped and 'significant delays' for treatments caused waiting lists to get longer.

Speaking at a meeting of the Isle of Wight Council's health and social care scrutiny committee, Clare Gowland, deputy chief operating officer for the trust, laid out how the trust aims to recover.

She said:

"The most important thing is that we communicate with our patients — we make sure they understand they have not been forgotten, what the options are and the timescales involved."

Patients waiting for procedures have been prioritised in clinical order with some Island residents being offered private treatment on the mainland.

Read more: Private ops to be offered to Isle of Wight patients to clear Covid backlog

Some of the actions will help provide additional capacity — extending theatre days and potentially bringing in clinical teams to operate over the weekend.

New equipment is also being considered — a third MRI scanner, hopefully available by January 2021, and a third CT scanner, potentially available in November this year. Both would clear the backlog by March 2021.

Staffing challenges in the endoscopy unit mean the trust is looking at bringing a company in, using the hospital's facilities to manage the waiting times.

Despite these steps, a number need financial approval and are being considered, which led Cllr Andrew Garratt, a member of the scrutiny committee, to ask if there was a Plan B, should funding not be available.

However, bosses have said they are prepared to have 'difficult conversations' with regulators should they not get the money needed — as the trust remains in financial special measures.

At the start of the pandemic, NHS Trusts were told by the government and NHS England to do whatever was necessary to help them cope.

By the end of July 2020, the trust had incurred £8.4 million of 'reasonable costs', which had all been claimed back for reimbursement. All of the trust's Covid costs have, so far, been recovered.

Darren Cattell, director of the trust's finances, said the trust's board was unanimous that the 'patient comes first'.

He said:

"We decided we would need to invest that money and potentially have a difficult conversation with our regulators about the financial impact of that as opposed to the worry of not being able to treat our patients."

Maggie Oldham, trust chief executive, said the actions are all the right things for the community but they are being upfront and transparent about the risk it may incur.

She said:

"Undoubtedly if we do not get financial support from our regulators we will have to carry some of the costs ourselves."

It was agreed by the council's health scrutiny committee that if it was needed, a letter would be given to the trust's regulator supporting the actions taken and the costs sustained.