Innovation across London sees waiting times cut for elective care

The NHS in London is continuing to find new ways to battle the backlog of people waiting for routine treatment, with teams taking on new methods to give more people the care they need.

From ‘Super Saturdays’ to High Intensity Theatre (‘HIT’) lists and new outpatient buildings opening, NHS staff across the capital are pulling out all the stops in order to see as many patients as possible and have now virtually eliminated the number of patients waiting 18 months or more for treatment.

According to the latest published statistics, for general surgery there was a 78% reduction since September 2021 with just 185 Londoners now waiting over 18 months for treatment.

Helping to further reduce long waits for general surgery, NHS teams at Kingston Hospital NHS Foundation Trust ran a ‘Super Saturday’ surgery theatre list on Saturday 12 November. Extra surgery days on weekends dedicated to the same types of surgery allow the team to triple the number of patients usually seen, with six members of the hospital’s surgical team operating at the same time.

Mr Gerogiannis, Clinical Lead for Surgery and Urology and Consultant General and Upper GI Surgeon at Kingston Hospital, who led the initiative said:

“It really is a combined team effort to pull off these high intensity theatre days successfully and takes a lot of preparation but when we are able to see three times as many patients in one day and help in getting through the waiting lists ahead of winter, it is definitely worth it.

“With support from pre-assessment, nursing and administration teams, we are able to reduce the time between each patient. While focusing on the same types of surgical procedures in one day, we also aim to safely reduce total operating time.”

NHS staff at Kingston Hospital have adopted the same approach with other operations to help reduce hospital admissions. This year to date, teams have successfully delivered 76% of total elective laparoscopic cholecystectomy procedures as day cases, up from 40% in 2019/2020, freeing up more hospital beds for those who need urgent care and overnight stays.

Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust has recently brought online two new CT scanners and a new MRI scanner. These state-of-the-art facilities mean more scans, in less time, with higher quality results.

The Trust anticipates being able to carry out an extra 1,000 MRI scans, and 2,500 CT scans for patients each year. This – along with other initiatives such as introduction of more ‘one stop’ services, the implementation of a new Rapid Diagnostic Centre, longer working days and weekend appointments – will mean people in Lewisham and Greenwich will have much shorter waits for a diagnosis or all-clear.

King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust recently opened the first part of a brand-new facility dedicated to outpatient care. This new space will allow more patients to be seen, starting with surgery and urology services, with other services including pain management, therapies and dermatology to follow over the coming weeks. The team, like others across the capital, are making continuous improvements for a smoother patient journey for those accessing care.

Medical Director for the NHS in London, Dr Chris Streather said:

“We are undoubtedly already facing one of our busiest starts to winter and despite ongoing pressures and high numbers of emergency patients, as well as the continued impact of Covid and a surge in flu, I am delighted we are still seeing waiting lists go down for those in need of routine treatment and care.

“We have now seen the number of people waiting more than 18 months for treatment reduce by 80% over the past year and also virtually eliminated the number of people waiting two years or more. This is down to our hard-working staff across London who continue to find new ways to safely increase the number of patients who can get treatment quicker.

“While we still have some way to go, these improvements are encouraging and would not be possible without the collaboration across teams and dedication of London’s NHS staff.”