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Trust Reduces Waits for Treatment and Tests

Newsdate: 20th April 2009

In January 2009, a new standard came into effect ensuring all patients in the NHS in England will be treated within a maximum of 18 weeks from referral to hospital by their GP.

At Wrightington, Wigan & Leigh NHS Foundation Trust (WWL) this target was met nine months early.  Patients who are admitted for surgery in our Trust have been treated within the 18 week target since March 2008.

The national average wait for treatment for patients admitted to hospital is 8.6 weeks. Within WWL the median wait for admitted patients is 7.6 weeks and for patients who are not admitted and are treated as either day cases or outpatients the wait is just 4.1 weeks.

Time spent waiting is important to patients which is why the NHS made it a priority to reduce waiting times.  This has made a significant difference to the treatment experience of millions of patients nationally:

  • Over 250,000 patients have a cataract removed every year.  The average referral to treatment time for these patients has reduced by half, from 20 weeks in March 2007 to 10 weeks in January 2009.
  • Hardness of hearing and deafness affect the lives of large numbers of people.  The NHS treats over 400,000 patients every year referred directly from primary care to audiology departments where the average wait from referral to treatment has been dramatically reduced and is now around 5 weeks.

Health Secretary Alan Johnson said:  “Twelve years ago it was not uncommon for patients to have to wait well over 18 months for an operation.  Achieving the shortest waits since NHS records began is a tremendous achievement for staff and I congratulate them for all their hard work.  Meeting the standard nationally five months before it came into effect, shows the commitment of the whole health service to improving patients’ experiences.

“This has improved the lives of millions of people.  Every year the NHS carries out 60,000 hip operations, in the last two years the waiting time for this procedure has fallen from around 30 weeks to 12 weeks.  It’s not just patients that benefit from this, clinicians also value the difference it makes to the quality of care they provide.”

Director of Operations at WWL, Tony Chambers said: “This achievement is testament to the hard work and commitment of everyone at the Trust.   Reducing waits is a real mark of recognition for the quality of services that we provide to our patients and has given us the opportunity to raise standards throughout the Trust and created a greater focus on improving the patient experience.

“I’d like to extend a huge thank you to every member of staff for enabling the Trust to meet a target which has often been described as one of the most challenging changes the NHS has ever embarked upon.

 “Good team work and new ways of working have enabled us to drive down waiting times in all specialties. This continued improvement has been possible through the redesign of services and the introduction of a number of initiatives to improve efficiency.

 “Some of the greatest examples of improvements have been in diagnostics. Two years ago it was not unusual for patients to wait months for diagnostic tests. Currently, waiting times for a Radiology test have been cut to just 3 weeks, and waiting times for all other diagnostic tests have been cut to 6 weeks.

“Our key objective now is to sustain the 18 Weeks target and to continue to provide care of the highest standard to all of our patients.”