How we’re reducing the time you’ll wait for treatment

Theatre staff

We’re proud of how all our teams are working hard to reduce waiting times for our patients to get the treatment they need. The pandemic provided the impetus for them to innovate and change and their work has been endorsed by senior people in the NHS and at The Royal College of Surgeons. It has also featured in the NHS’s plan to tackle backlogs; on the flagship television news bulletins of the BBC and ITV; and in this blog for NHS Providers.

From super-clinics in the evening and weekends through to state-of-the art diagnostic equipment and streamlining the way we work, our staff are turning what they learnt from Covid-19 into what they do each day as they tackle the backlog. We carried out more than 12,000 surgeries in 2021 in our Covid secure ‘green zone’ at King George Hospital (now our Surgical Hub). In the same year, we completed more than 100,000 CT and MRI scans.

Others in the NHS have been in touch to learn from us, and we are one of the best performing trusts in London when it comes to the delivery of high volume, low complexity surgery.

Our teams have thrived on mutual respect, visible leadership and a shared determination to deliver for our patients.

Our Surgical Hub at King George Hospital

This hospital within a hospital is one of our greatest assets. The importance of our focus on maintaining surgery in our hub is borne out by the fact three out of every five of our surgical admissions (via A&E) were on a waiting list of some kind. It’s where we are focusing on the six specialties that make up 50 per cent of our waiting lists - general surgery, ENT (ear, nose and throat) trauma and orthopaedics, ophthalmology, urology, and gynaecology. 

It has enabled us to keep surgical beds free for patients waiting for their planned care, instead of being used for emergency cases which has often been the case in the past. Last winter was the first time in four years that our full list of cancer operations took place.

Work also begins this November to expand the hub, which will include two new theatres, allowing us to carry out at least 16 additional operations per day, as well as upgraded staff facilities, improved storage, and double the number of recovery beds.

Reducing the number of patients with the longest waits to zero

Our teams have worked extremely hard to see patients whose treatment was delayed by the pandemic and they got together to find even more innovative ways after a technical issue meant our waiting list increased by around 1,800 people, including 218 who’d waited more than two years. This number, at the start of May, was reduced to zero in just two months.

And a few highlights:

PrEYEority week - we held our seventh PrEYEority week in September 2022, seeing 1,153 patients in just seven days – smashing our own target of 800. These focused efforts have reduced our waiting lists and given the team the opportunity to focus on reducing the backlog of children waiting to be seen, launching the ‘Bright Eyes’ project.

Endometriosis Awareness Week – we carried out 24 endometriosis operations in just one week, compared to a usual average of around two a week. This was made possible thanks to the hard work of our team and robotic assisted surgery using our Da Vinci Xi system.

Bones Project – our most recent Bones weeks, in April and May 2022, saw 133 patients get the care they needed.  We’ve had five such weeks so far and we haven’t lost any theatre slots as a result of patients failing to attend, helped in part by our surgeons calling their patients the day before they’re due to operate. In the third Bones week in July 2021, we carried out 135 hip and knee replacements in seven days and one person went home on the day of their operation after having had their hip replaced.

Scalpel Project - our General Surgery team held six special Saturday clinics, and saw more than 1,000 patients - one of whom was a 103-year-old woman whose treatment had been delayed by Covid-19.   

Back2Backs – our spinal review clinic helped prepare patients in need of surgery. 119 patients were seen on the day. The clinic boasted a one-stop-shop to get patients ready for their procedure.

ENT Kidz - a series of weekend ear, nose and throat (ENT) super clinics for our young patients.

Gastronaught project - brought together clinical and administrative teams to review 636 patients not yet booked for appointment. 51 per cent of them were either redirected or discharged and all the others were booked to be seen or had investigations planned.

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