Reducing our waiting lists and boosting our finances by using our theatres more effectively

Members of our theatres team

Members of our theatres team

We’re one of the top-performing London trusts when it comes to delivering high volume, low complexity surgery and now we’re further reducing the time patients wait for treatment by increasing use of our theatres to 90 per cent of available sessions, up from 84 per cent in early 2022.

This is despite us having to reduce our planned surgery by 15 per cent (equivalent to the loss of one theatre) due to a national increase in demand on emergency surgery.

Making better use of our theatres from July to December 2022 also helped raised an additional £546,000 for our Trust.

We set up our Theatre Utilisation Group in June 2022 which was tasked with hitting the national target of our theatres being in use for 85 per cent of available sessions. We set ourselves and even tougher internal target, aiming to reach 92 per cent.

Membership of the group consisted of our admissions teams and service managers, empowering them to take ownership of organising our theatre lists. They were also helped by the introduction of a live dashboard to track lists, whereas before teams had to manually go through each one for every theatre session.

Another key element of making better use of our theatres was the 6/5/2 process, which consists of identifying surgeons for each session six weeks in advance, offering unused (fallow) sessions to other teams if not filled five weeks in advance (to prevent theatres sitting empty), and locking down sessions with staffing rotas two week in advance.

This allows us to notify patients of their surgery at least two weeks in advance, which has massively improved the rate of non-attendances, going from around ten per cent to just over three per cent.

Joyce Hartzenberg, our clinical group director of operations for surgery, critical care and anaesthetics, said: “Our theatres are one of our most expensive clinical commodities, each four-hour session costs between £3,000 and £3,500, so it’s an expensive loss if we don’t use them effectively.

“I’m really proud of what the team has managed to achieve. Despite some challenges around the recent junior doctor strike, we are continuing to consistently hit 90 per cent utilisation of our theatres. We treated almost 200 more patients between September and December last year, compared to pre-Covid levels, by reducing fallow theatre sessions from up to 100 a month in 2021, to around 40 a month this year.”

Read more about how we’re reducing our waiting lists.

Pictured above are members of our Theatres team.

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