London’s NHS continues to cut waiting times despite rising winter pressures

The NHS in London has continued to reduce long wait times for planned treatment and see even more patients for diagnostics tests and potentially lifesaving cancer checks, as staff contend with the start of a busy winter.

Latest figures show tens of thousands more people received the diagnostic tests and checks they needed in October with 31,795 more checks completed compared to the previous month.

More than 37,000 patients received a potentially life-saving cancer check in October 2022 following an urgent GP referral, which was 2,300 more than in the same month before the pandemic (October 2019). 3,475 patients started cancer treatment in October 2022, which was 228 more than in the same month before the pandemic.

Progress also continues to be made as in October 2022, the number of people waiting 18 months or more for routine treatment has been reduced by 75% since this time last year, while waits of over two years have been virtually eliminated as staff continue to battle the backlog built up throughout the pandemic.

Alongside this, NHS staff working in Emergency Departments are dealing with an incredibly busy start to winter with over 16,000 more attendances to London A&Es in November this year than in November 2021.

To achieve these figures, NHS staff across London are continuing to find opportunities for smarter and more efficient working to see more patients, quicker.

To ease pressures in Epsom and St Helier University Hospitals NHS Trust’s Emergency Departments, and through a formal partnership with Surrey Downs Health and Care, frail, vulnerable people living at home or in care homes receive support from a multi-disciplinary team. This means those people receive the care they need at home, reducing attendances at Emergency Departments. The trust also recently opened a new cardiology cath lab, which is open for longer hours, more days a week, allowing more patients to be seen – and in turn reducing the time they wait for life-saving and life-changing procedures like pacemaker insertions.

Teams at South West London Elective Orthopaedic Centre, the largest joint replacement centre in the UK, based at Epsom Hospital, have reduced their waiting times to an average of 6-8 weeks from previously up to 15 weeks. This has been achieved by the expansion of their operating theatres which now has capacity for six theatres, which run six days a week. Next year, the team plan to deliver 6,295 procedures, an increase of almost 500 procedures from this year.

Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust is using tried and tested methods to get as many patients as possible the treatment they need. With careful planning and teamwork, the surgery team recently operated on 22 urology patients in one day, triple the number which would usually be completed on an average day.

Weekend clinics are also being held, where low complexity, simple procedures can be carried out safely in higher volumes. On Saturday 27 November, the team completed 32 skin cancer surgeries, triple the amount to usual.

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

“Thanks to the hard work of NHS staff across the capital, we are making huge strides in tackling the backlog of patients who are waiting more than 18 months for routine or planned care. We are doing all we can to eliminate long waits and the inspiring work that has been taking place is certainly continuing to reduce these numbers.

“Catching up on planned care is even more difficult when services are already under pressures amidst a busy winter, but it is imperative that people still come forward for care when needed to avoid later needing emergency care and a visit to A&E.

“There are of course ways the public can continue to support NHS workers, and that is by protecting yourselves and others at this time of winter especially by taking up your vaccinations when offered, and ensuring you are contacting NHS 111 online for health advice, if it not a life-threatening concern.”