Posted 05/02/2019 By: Julie Crossley
The total waiting list of more than 4.1 million is up more than 10% over 12 months. But now a leading health regulator says hospitals could treat more patients if they planned use of operating theatres more effectively.
A report by NHS Improvement say at least 291,000 more non-urgent operations and procedures could be carried out each year at 92 hospital trusts in England.
This is based on a study of 1.72 million surgical cases at those trusts in 2017.
The time lost to late starts, early finishes and delays between operations could, according to NHS Improvement, have been used to carry out the extra 291,000 operations. The report says delays in patients arriving in theatre from wards or admission units and incomplete pre-surgical checks waste time.
One example given is better planning of the availability of senior doctors and surgeons.
Surgical staff, says the report, should be required to give more notice when booking annual leave and to agree lists of patients for operations four weeks in advance.
There have clearly been differences of opinion over what could be achieved through higher productivity.
It is understood the Royal College of Surgeons did not receive the full analysis with all the number crunching until the summer of 2018.
Health service leaders and ministers were focused on the NHS 70th birthday celebrations and perhaps decided that improving hospital efficiency was not an appropriate message at that time.
The Royal College of Surgeons has given a guarded welcome to the NHS Improvement report, noting that there is an opportunity to improve the scheduling of operating lists. But a college official added there were wider issues that should be tackled, including inadequate numbers of hospital beds to accommodate patients needing an overnight stay after their operations. The problem, says the college, "is compounded by workforce shortages".
Andrew Haldenby, director of the public services think tank Reform, said: "What is striking is that neither the NHS authorities nor hospitals themselves are doing very much to improve the situation.
Perhaps hundreds of thousands more operations could have been carried out by now, relieving patients of the pain and inconvenience associated with long waits.
Julie Crossley a medical negligence lawyer from Ashtons Legal comments: “There has to be a balance between undertaking more surgery but ensuring that there are adequate staff to cope with the extra demand on beds and patients. However it is clear that there is an opportunity to increase the number of surgeries undertaken and relieve a majority of patients from unnecessary and prolonged pain which in turn can lead to other problems, as invariably the level of pain forces patients to refer weight to their other leg if they are waiting for hip/knee surgery, they suffer shoulder problems due to having to rely on walking aids and, in some cases, the delay can lead to them seeking legal advice and on occasions proceeding with litigation.”
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