Patients are being treated faster across north East London as our hospitals bring down the backlog of routine care accumulated because of Covid.
Although the pandemic was officially declared over last month, its legacy persists in the NHS through long waiting lists for planned procedures.
Yet at the end of 2022/3, no-one was waiting two years or more for an operation at Barts Health unless they chose to do so, and the group’s hospitals are on track to bring the maximum wait below 18 months by next month.
Over the last twelve months almost 169,000 patients benefitted from a recovery drive to reduce the longest waiting times for first treatment, alongside continuing to treating urgent and cancer cases in line with clinical priorities.
These patients included more than 20,000 children, about 17,000 people with heart conditions, and around 10,000 people requiring breast surgery, with similar numbers undergoing gynaecology treatment and orthopaedic operations.
The Royal London hospital accounted for 46% of the group caseload, Whipps Cross hospital 24%, St Bartholomew’s hospital 17%, and Newham hospital 13%. During the year 428 patients declined the treatment offered for personal reasons.
Doctors at the four hospitals perform about 8,500 inpatient operations a month, most of which are daycase surgery but about a fifth require an overnight stay. A huge effort is under way to increase this by ensuring operating theatres are used to full capacity.
Despite the recent strikes by junior doctors, during which 748 operations were rescheduled and 12,536 outpatient appointments rearranged, the overall waiting list for routine elective treatment has stabilised at about 117,000 people.
Barts Health is also taking advantage of capacity elsewhere in the local integrated care system. More than 3,000 patients were referred to Homerton Healthcare last year for urology, gynaecology and general surgery, and the rate of inter-hospital transfers across north east London is expected to double this year.
Rebecca Carlton, group chief operating officer, said,
“Our hospitals are making huge efforts to care for patients whose treatment was delayed by the pandemic. Only a handful of individuals waited over two years for treatment through personal choice.
“We still have some tough challenges ahead, but by pooling our resources and collaborating together we can improve equity of access and ensure local patients get the treatment they need at the hospital with the shortest wait in that specialty.
“Over the last two years around 10,000 people in north east London have received outpatient, diagnostic or surgical care in a different NHS hospital to the one to which they were referred. This illustrates the value of working together to make sure that wherever you live, all our patients are seen as promptly as possible.”