NHS’s longest waiting times virtually eliminated across east of England

NHS staff across the East of England are being praised for virtually eliminating the longest waits for scans, checks, surgical procedures, and other routine treatment.

The NHS Elective Recovery Plan, published earlier this year, set out how the health service would address the backlogs that have inevitably built up during Covid.

The first step in the plan was focused on those patients waiting two years or more by the end of July, except where they chose to wait longer, did not want to travel to be seen faster, or for very complex cases requiring specialist treatment.

In the east of England, 2,988 patients were waiting for more than two years for treatment at the end of January. At the end of July, only four patients were waiting more than two years due to capacity reasons in hospitals, with them all being booked into receive their treatment soon.

Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has implemented pioneering innovation to support their recovery. Robotic technology is being used for prostatectomies, which is reducing recovery times and freeing up vital bed space. Patients can now be discharged after one day post-operation compared to the four or five days due to more invasive procedures.

Mid and South Essex NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Broomfield Hospital, Basildon University Hospital and Southend University Hospital, has eliminated its two year waits through extending the hours in which they perform operations into the evenings and weekends to help combat their backlog.

This recovery has been delivered despite higher levels of Covid and some of the busiest months on record for accident and emergency attendances.

Dr Melanie Iles, NHS East of England’s acting medical director, said: “The first milestone in the Elective Recovery Plan has been met in the east of England thanks to the outstanding work by dedicated NHS staff.

“Across our region, teams have turned their focus to supporting our longest waiting patients and changed the way we deliver care, using first-of-its-kind technology like robot surgery, and collaborative working with neighbouring Trusts to offer patients the opportunity to be transferred elsewhere and get the care they need as quickly as possible.”

Nationally, in May 1.7 million people were referred for treatment, and almost 1.4 million people started treatment – with the NHS seeing 200,000 more elective patients compared to the same month last year.

The NHS will now focus on 18 months and longer waits by April 2023, prioritising the longest waiting patients and those with the greatest clinical need.


Notes to editors

  • Data relating to Referral to Treatment waiting times can be found here.
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