Taking Action to Reduce Waiting Lists in Greater Manchester

A wide range of work is underway in Greater Manchester to reduce waiting times and provide support for patients who are waiting for operations, surgery, and hospital appointments.

The number of people waiting to start treatment in Greater Manchester is increasing, though the number of people waiting over 52 weeks has reduced. This is in part, because Greater Manchester was among the areas hardest hit in the country by COVID-19.

To improve the situation, reduce the amount of time people are waiting for treatment, and to support people while they wait, a range of initiatives have been introduced including:

The While You Wait website, a new resource launched this week, that is helping patients manage their physical and mental wellbeing while waiting for hospital care by providing information and advice.

A ‘Walk in walk out’ model of surgery is being used at Royal Manchester’s Children’s Hospital, to allow more children to receive ear, nose, throat, and dental surgery. Due to the large numbers of children waiting for paediatric dentistry and oral surgery, work has also been undertaken to review the waiting list and identify where patients may be able to be safely treated within a community setting.

A Greater Manchester orthopedic hub has been established at Wrightington Hospital, where additional theatre sessions are being held to reduce the backlog. This will be followed by the introduction of another orthopaedic hub at Fairfield General Hospital, which is also holding Super Saturdays, to deliver extra hip and knee operations.

Community diagnostic centres are set to be created at Royal Oldham Hospital and Royal Bolton Hospital after national funding was secured. The centres will reduce the time people are waiting for diagnostic tests, meaning diseases are identified earlier, therefore improving the chances of successful treatment.

Making sure people get the care they need in the best place. We are building on the relationship between GPs and hospitals making it easier to refer patients, while ensuring people are directed to the most appropriate care for their needs. This is being achieved with an electronic referral service, which is allowing GPs to get advice and guidance from specialist colleagues and helping them identify when it is appropriate for patients to get support within the community, rather than needing a hospital appointment.

 Dr Francis Andrews, co-chair of the GM elective care reform and recovery board and medical director at Bolton NHS Foundation Trust, said:

“The pandemic has been one of the biggest challenges the NHS has ever faced. Over the last 18 months all health care staff have worked tirelessly to continue to provide the very best care and support they can to patients. However, the impact of coronavirus has seen waiting lists for treatment continue to grow and this is a situation we must address.

“We have accelerated work to tackle waiting times that was already underway before COVID-19 struck and introduced a number of new initiatives like our elective hubs. These hubs will operate six days a week and provide an additional 2,466 procedures by March 2022.”

Dr Cath Munro, co-chair of the GM elective care reform and recovery board and GP clinical chair for Stockport CCG, said:

“Across Greater Manchester all NHS organisations are working together to make sure patients receive the care they need in the right place, as quickly as possible.

“Realistically, long waiting lists for hospital treatment will be with us for some time, but we can begin to improve things by reducing the backlog in areas with the longest lists and by making sure everyone is supported to stay as well as possible while they wait. Keeping as fit and healthy as possible can also help to get the best out of their surgery or procedures.”

“We understand this must be a worrying time for anyone waiting for treatment, but please know we are prioritising those with the greatest need and will continue to work our hardest to treat as many people as possible.”

In Greater Manchester, outpatient activity continues to be above pre-COVID-19 levels and both day case and elective activity levels have improved. The total number of patients waiting continues to incrementally increase though the number waiting over 52 weeks has stayed stable and makes up less than 8% of the total waiting list.

The three specialty areas with the biggest number of waits over 52 weeks are orthopaedics, general surgery and oral surgery. The total amount of elective work that can be delivered is limited by the need to also provide both urgent care and Covid requirements including Infection Control restrictions. Please note, the waiting list includes those waiting for a procedure or surgery and people waiting for an outpatient appointment (the majority).