As we’ve highlighted in previous editions of this bulletin, Gloucestershire health and care partners are working hard on the challenging task of bringing down waiting times for the people we serve.

In line with national guidance on planned care, our focus remains on eliminating the longest waits for treatment (more than 104 weeks and over 78 weeks), ensuring 95% of patients waiting for diagnostic tests receive them within six weeks and prioritising 28- and 62-day cancer targets.

Despite the busiest winter ever for the health service, the Gloucestershire system continues to make good progress in meeting these targets.

At Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (GHFT), over 130% of diagnostic tests, such as endoscopies, CT scans and MRIs, are being delivered compared to pre-pandemic levels. Additional Echocardiography capacity has seen the waiting list fall by over 3,200 since November and is on track to eliminate all waits of more than 6 weeks by the end of March.

In December 86.3% of patients with suspected cancer were seen within two weeks of their referral compared to a national average of 80%.

We are also one of a small number of areas consistently meeting the recently introduced Faster Diagnosis Standard (FDS) that ensures patients with suspected cancer have their diagnosis confirmed or ruled out within 28 days of being referred urgently by their GP. In December this was achieved for 80% of patients compared to a national average of 70%.

Outpatient recovery has been excellent with GHFT now doing an average of 13,700 outpatient appointments a week (103% of pre-pandemic levels). Telephone and video appointments continue to be offered as alternatives to face to face appointments where appropriate.

Operations are now back up to 83% of the level that they were pre-pandemic. However, in the week ending the 12 Feb GHFT achieved a recovery of 100% against the same week of 19/20 demonstrating the improvements now being made.

There continue to be no patients in Gloucestershire waiting 104 weeks for treatment compared with 368 across the South West.

As of 19 February, there were 33 patients waiting more than 78 weeks (all of whom have dates to be seen before the end of March) and 1,704 waiting more than 52 weeks for treatment in Gloucestershire, compared with a total of 4,624 over 78 weeks and 41,799 over 52 weeks in the region.

With substantial investment in operating theatres and a day surgery unit at our two acute hospitals, plus the new Community Diagnostic Centre in Gloucester, the county is taking a real step forward in tackling our current challenges and bringing down waiting times for our population.

One Gloucestershire partners acknowledge the size of the challenge and that many patients are still waiting longer than they would like due to the backlog which built up during the first phases of the pandemic.

However, we are well on track to deliver the national priorities for reductions in planned care waiting times.