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New NHS figures have revealed that NHS Trusts in the Midlands are on track in reducing waits for elective care of 104 weeks or more.
Published in February, the NHS Elective Recovery Plan set out a blueprint for addressing COVID-19 backlogs that have inevitably built up during the pandemic including the aim to eliminate two-year waits by July 2022. The NHS also aims to deliver around 30% more elective activity by 2024/25 than before the pandemic, after accounting for the impact of an improved care offer.
In just two months since the NHS Elective Recovery Plan was published, University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire (UHCW) NHS Trust is the only teaching trust in the country to have already achieved the target of ensuring no patients are waiting for longer than two years.
Working directly with patients meeting the two-year threshold, the Trust’s surgical, diagnostic and operational teams have prioritised care based on clinical need, with regular progress reviews allowing for any potential issues and health inequalities to be highlighted efficiently and effectively.
Professor Andy Hardy, Chief Executive Officer of UHCW NHS Trust, said: “We are extremely proud of the expertise and dedication shown by our teams to reach this important milestone and deliver the highest standards of patient care. It is our aim to continue this momentum over the coming months to ensure that waiting times for our patients are reduced to the lowest possible levels.”
Three NHS Trusts based in the Midlands are also among the top 10 Trusts with the biggest reductions in two year waits since February.
Over the past two months, University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust (UHB) has reduced two-year waits by 58% – the largest reduction in England – going from 2,084 patients waiting more than 104 weeks for elective care, to 875. Worcestershire Acute NHS Trust has also reduced two year waits significantly by 38% and University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust has also achieved a 26% reduction.
University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust’s significant reduction in two-year waits was enabled partly through the use of new enhanced perioperative care units at UHB’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham (QEHB) and Solihull Hospital.
Since August 2020, the units provide dedicated capacity to enable surgical treatments and have cared for 2,332 patients for whom it would have been likely operations would be cancelled due to the limited capacity in ITUs with a vast number of COVID-19 patients requiring those beds. UHB has treated the highest number of COVID-19 patients nationally – over 25,000 which has resulted in its waiting lists growing significantly.
Enhanced perioperative care units are set up to care for people undergoing complex surgical procedures, who require more care than a higher dependency unit or general ward, but less dependency than the critical care provided in ITU. UHB is also working to expand capacity to support more surgery by adding two wards each to QEHB, Heartlands Hospital and Good Hope Hospital. The first two of these new wards opened at QEHB in January this year.
The Trust’s Ophthalmology Diagnostic Hub has also been helping to tackle the backlog, with more than 5,000 patients seen in the year since it opened, allowing patients to spend less time in an acute setting and be monitored closer to home.
Dr Nigel Sturrock, Regional Medical Director, at NHS England and NHS Improvement in the Midlands, said:
“NHS Trusts in the Midlands have successfully begun to reduce the longest waits for care, which ultimately means people who have been in need for longest, are now getting the care they need.
“These figures show that through initiatives such as new perioperative care units, dedicated diagnostic hubs, and creating additional ward capacity, we are on track to ensure no-one is waiting more than two years for elective care.
“As we have always said throughout the pandemic, it is vitally important that anybody who has health needs continues to come forward, so that staff can help you with the best options for your care.”
Nationally, the number of patients waiting two years or more has dropped by 33% in the past two months, with more than 7,300 beginning treatment.