NHS south east regional director thanks staff as longest waits now reduced

9 August 2022

NHS staff across the South East of England have now reduced the longest waits for scans, checks, surgical procedures and other routine treatment below two years -the first milestone in the most ambitious catch-up plan in health service history.

The NHS Elective Recovery Plan set the target of eliminating two year waits by July 2022, except in cases where patients choose to wait longer or require treatment in certain specialities.

Thanks to the hard work of staff across the NHS, the number of people waiting more than two years in the South East has fallen to just 60 104 week waiters from a record national peak in January, of whom 37 opted to defer treatment, 21 are very complex cases, and two are waiting at a private sector provider.

This recovery is even more remarkable in light of the ongoing pressures across the health service, particularly in urgent and emergency care. It has also been delivered despite much higher than predicted levels of Covid, with 220,000 patients nationally admitted to hospital since the publication of the Elective Recovery Plan in February.

Elective recovery has been at the forefront of the South East region’s priorities, and to improve waiting times the NHS has announced new facilities, services and technologies, expansion of opening hours and trial programmes to improve efficiency and reduce the backlog of people awaiting treatment.09082022 Anne Eden Regional director of NHS england.png

South East Regional Director for the NHS, Anne Eden, said: “NHS staff across the South East are dedicated to making sure all patients are seen as quickly as possible.

“I want to thank staff for all their hard work in helping to tackle the backlog which built up during the Covid-19 pandemic. Staff in the South East have pulled out all the stops and worked incredibly hard to deliver this milestone.

“It has only been possible because the NHS has continued to reform the way we deliver care, using innovative techniques such as the pressured water technology to remove prostate tissue faster at Basingstoke Hospital and the use of virtual services to reduce waiting times for dermatology patients at Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust.

“The introduction of new treatment pathways, designed to increase the speed with which patients are seen, has involved staff working together in primary care and community services, as well as in our hospitals. This has truly been a team effort across the NHS in the South East.”

In the South East we have seen a new Community Diagnostic Centre (CDC) open and the expansion of the existing CDC service at Queen Victoria Hospital in Sussex, the expansion of a patient flow platform at Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells Foundation Trust in Kent.

The NHS has also had phase 2 of the development of the Community Diagnostic Centre near Maidstone Hospital in Kent approved. The CDC has been running since September 2021 and providesincreased MRI and CT capacity. As a direct result the turnaround times from referral to scan has been reduced from 17 to 9 days in CT, 19 days to 10.5 in MRI which has supported the delivery of national diagnostic standards.

Phase 2 will see the expansionof the CDC to provide additional clinical facilities -including 12 clinical rooms, three ultrasound rooms and two phlebotomy rooms.

A new £8.5 million mental health facility in Surrey has also been announced while the Isle of Wight NHS Trust started to provide a seven-days-a-week service for people on the island who have been diagnosed with dementia. In addition, Basingstoke Hospital in Hampshire, is trialling new pressured water technology to remove prostate tissue faster, increasing the speed that patients can be treated.

A mobile stand-alone cataract suite in the grounds of Stoke Mandeville Hospital, Buckinghamshire opened during the pandemic, enabling the Trust to perform 80-100 additional cataract surgeries each week.

Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton built a £2.85 million extension to its emergency department, increasing the number of patients they can see while in West Sussex new technology meant cancer patients could return home the same day they had their prostate removed, meaning more hospital capacity and cutting down waiting times.

Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust’s urgent community response team in North Hampshire launched a new falls and frailty van which means over 85% of patients seen at the mobile unit didn’t need to be admitted to hospital.

This recovery comes despite the NHS admitting over 200,000 patients to hospital with covid since the plan was published, as well as facing unusually high levels of staff absences and significant demand for urgent and emergency care services in recent months.

Delivering this target has only been possible thanks to the hard work of staff, making effective use of all available capacity including through partnership with independent sector providers, and through building new relationships and mutualaid arrangements across systems to move patients around where appropriate.

The next target in the Elective Recovery Plan is to eliminate 78 week waits by April 2023, and we are building more resilience into the NHS by recruiting and retaining more staff and expanding our capacity through community diagnostic centres, surgical hubs and virtual wards.

NHS staff will –as always –go above and beyond to provide expert treatment to everyone who needs it and particularly those who have been waiting the longest,and it is crucial that people concerned to come forward for help if they are concerned about their health.

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