NHS staff across the South East of England have now reduced the longest
waits for scans, checks, surgical procedures and other routine treatment
below two years – the first milestone in the most ambitious catch-up plan in
health service history.
The NHS Elective Recovery Plan set the target of eliminating two year
waits by July 2022, except in cases where patients choose to wait longer or
require treatment in certain specialities.
Thanks to the hard work of staff across the NHS, the number of people
waiting more than two years in the South East has fallen to just 60 104
week waiters from a record national peak in January, of whom 37 opted to
defer treatment, 21 are very complex cases, and two are waiting at a
private sector provider.
This recovery is even more remarkable in light of the ongoing pressures
across the health service, particularly in urgent and emergency care. It has
also been delivered despite much higher than predicted levels of Covid,
with 220,000 patients nationally admitted to hospital since the publication of
the Elective Recovery Plan in February.
Elective recovery has been at the forefront of the South East region’s
priorities, and to improve waiting times the NHS has announced new
facilities, services and technologies, expansion of opening hours and trial
programmes to improve efficiency and reduce the backlog of people
South East Regional Director for the NHS, Anne Eden, said: “NHS staff
across the South East are dedicated to making sure all patients are seen
as quickly as possible.
“I want to thank staff for all their hard work in helping to tackle the backlog
which built up during the Covid-19 pandemic. Staff in the South East have
pulled out all the stops and worked incredibly hard to deliver this milestone.
“It has only been possible because the NHS has continued to reform the
way we deliver care, using innovative techniques such as the pressured
water technology to remove prostate tissue faster at Basingstoke Hospital
and the use of virtual services to reduce waiting times for dermatology
patients at Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust.
“The introduction of new treatment pathways, designed to increase the
speed with which patients are seen, has involved staff working together in
primary care and community services, as well as in our hospitals. This has
truly been a team effort across the NHS in the South East.”
In the South East we have seen a new Community Diagnostic Centre
(CDC) open and the expansion of the existing CDC service at Queen
Victoria Hospital in Sussex, the expansion of a patient flow platform at
Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells Foundation Trust in Kent.
The NHS has also had phase 2 of the development of the Community
Diagnostic Centre near Maidstone Hospital in Kent approved. The CDC
has been running since September 2021 and provides increased MRI and
CT capacity. As a direct result the turnaround times from referral to scan
has been reduced from 17 to 9 days in CT, 19 days to 10.5 in MRI which
has supported the delivery of national diagnostic standards.
Phase 2 will see the expansion of the CDC to provide additional clinical
facilities – including 12 clinical rooms, three ultrasound rooms and two
A new £8.5 million mental health facility in Surrey has also been
announced while the Isle of Wight NHS Trust started to provide a sevendays-a-week service for people on the island who have been diagnosed with dementia.
In addition, Basingstoke Hospital in Hampshire, is trialling
new pressured water technology to remove prostate tissue faster,
increasing the speed that patients can be treated.
A mobile stand-alone cataract suite in the grounds of Stoke Mandeville
Hospital, Buckinghamshire opened during the pandemic, enabling the Trust
to perform 80-100 additional cataract surgeries each week.
Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton built a £2.85 million extension to
its emergency department, increasing the number of patients they can see
while in West Sussex new technology meant cancer patients could return
home the same day they had their prostate removed, meaning more
hospital capacity and cutting down waiting times.
Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust’s urgent community response team
in North Hampshire launched a new falls and frailty van which means over
85% of patients seen at the mobile unit didn’t need to be admitted to
This recovery comes despite the NHS admitting over 200,000 patients to
hospital with covid since the plan was published, as well as facing
unusually high levels of staff absences and significant demand for urgent
and emergency care services in recent months.
Delivering this target has only been possible thanks to the hard work of
staff, making effective use of all available capacity including through
partnership with independent sector providers, and through building new
relationships and mutual aid arrangements across systems to move
patients around where appropriate.
The next target in the Elective Recovery Plan is to eliminate 78 week waits
by April 2023, and we are building more resilience into the NHS by
recruiting and retaining more staff and expanding our capacity through
community diagnostic centres, surgical hubs and virtual wards.
NHS staff will – as always – go above and beyond to provide expert
treatment to everyone who needs it and particularly those who have been
waiting the longest, and it is crucial that people concerned to come forward
for help if they are concerned about their health.