Thousands more operations and diagnostic tests set to benefit Londoners

The NHS plans to expand surgical capacity in the capital with the potential to conduct over 51,000 more operations and over 87,000 more diagnostic tests per year by 2025 to help reduce the Covid backlog, as a result of funding announced recently.

The new Targeted Investment Funding (TIF) worth £207.3m will create additional surgical theatres, beds ring-fenced for surgical care and extra diagnostic equipment so NHS staff can see and treat more Londoners.

It comes as the NHS in February marked the one-year anniversary of the Elective Recovery Plan which has seen staff virtually eliminate two-year waits for patients awaiting care.

The expansion in capacity will mean operations can be carried out more efficiently in one place, bringing down wait times for surgery and will allow more patients to have the option to go home sooner after treatment.

King George Hospital – part of Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust (BHRUT) – plans to build two new theatres at its existing surgical hub – originally set up during the pandemic to increase capacity. This extra surgical space has the capacity to offer around 4,000 more operations per year, working out as 80 more per week.

The hub in Ilford focuses on the six specialties that make up 70 per cent of its waiting lists – general surgery, ENT (ear, nose and throat) trauma and orthopaedics, ophthalmology, urology and gynaecology.

From super-clinics in the evening and weekends and state-of-the art diagnostic equipment, staff have turned what they learnt from Covid-19 into what they do each day as they tackle the backlog.

Thangadorai Amalesh, Divisional Director of Surgery at BHRUT, said:

“Our surgical hub has really transformed how we care for patients, reducing the time they wait for their operation.

“We carried out more than 7,600 surgeries last year and got the number of those waiting more than two years for treatment to zero. This focus on reducing long waits wouldn’t have been possible without our hub – and its expansion will allow us to continue to increase the number of operations we carry out each day.”

Moorfields Eye Hospital has successfully used surgical hubs including the Eye Unit at St Ann’s Hospital to tackle its post-Covid-19 backlog for low-complexity ophthalmic procedures, including cataracts.  It has used cataract drives across several sites to carry out over 700 operations in a single week. The trust has also eliminated its post-pandemic backlog through the use of diagnostic hubs. Patients can be seen in their local community, with all their tests completed within 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, North Middlesex University Hospital is building a new day surgery unit which will treat an additional 4,000 patients per year, and Hammersmith Hospital is getting a new cardiac CT scanner that could lead to 500 more tests per year.

Helen Pettersen, Interim Regional Director for the NHS in London said:

“The achievements we’ve seen this past year to tackle waiting lists is a true testament to our hard-working NHS staff in the capital – and this extra surgical and diagnostic capacity will only help move things in the right direction.

“The NHS is doing everything it can to build on our Long-Term Plan commitments, like providing patients a wide choice of options for quick and safe surgical care, and we remain devoted to deliver on our outpatient and elective targets to improve the lives of everyone across the capital.”