More than 3,000 people in north east London came off the waiting list for treatment this winter as a result of closer collaboration between two hospital groups.
Most of the patients from Barts Health were able to have their diagnostic scans and procedures at neighbouring hospitals with spare capacity run by Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust (BHRUT).
The two organisations are exploring innovative ways of developing the ad hoc system of mutual aid that the NHS routinely uses to manage winter pressures.
Between December 2021 and February 2022, over 2,000 people waiting for ultrasound scans at Barts Health were referred to BHRUT for speedier diagnosis before treatment. Many benefitted from extra temporary investment in staff and scanners at Barking Community Hospital
Meanwhile, 900 people waiting for endoscopies at Whipps Cross hospital were transferred to BHRUT and contacted to check their status. Almost 200 were treated there, 200 said they had already been treated, and a similar number chose to go back to Whipps Cross. This rapid triage effectively eliminated the local waiting list backlog for endoscopies that developed during the pandemic.
Barts Health now expects to send 500 patients a week to BHRUT for non-obstetric ultrasound scans. The two trusts are using the lesson learned to stimulate further collaboration in medical and surgical specialties with varying waiting times, such as for gastro-enterology, ear nose and throat procedures (ENT), and orthopaedics.
For example, 45 patients have had ENT surgery at BHRUT. The inter-trust collaboration is part of a wider mutual aid programme across the north east London (NEL) integrated care system that has also seen 2,600 Barts Health patients referred to Homerton Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, mainly for gynaecology, urology and general surgery.
To drive this programme, Claire Hogg was recently appointed NEL director of planned care recovery and transformation. She has a track record in establishing collaborative ways of working, recently as Director of Strategy and Partnership at Homerton and previously at Barts Health where she led the community health service alliance contract in Tower Hamlets.
Claire said: “Waiting times vary across surgical specialities and this is unfair on those patients waiting too long for treatment. Over the coming year we are determined to address these inequities across our patch, with our hospitals working together and supported by targeted investment in expanding elective capacity and our community diagnostic hubs.”