Here we update on the latest planned care recovery news as we continue the challenging task of bringing down waiting times for the people we serve.

As we’ve highlighted in previous editions of this bulletin, earlier this year, we received national guidance on planned care, including targets to eliminate 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 increases in seasonal illness, related hospital admissions and urgent and emergency care pressures, the Gloucestershire system continues to make good progress in meeting these targets.

At Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, over 125% of diagnostic tests, such as endoscopies, CT scans and MRIs, are being delivered compared to pre-pandemic levels.  Excluding echocardiogram where significant improvements are expected by February, 96% of patients received their diagnostic tests within 6 weeks.

In October, 88.6% of patients with suspected cancer were seen within two weeks of their referral compared to a national average of 78%.

GHFT is also one of a small number of Trusts 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 October this was achieved for 77% of patients (above the target set of 75% by March 2024), compared to a national average of 71%.

Outpatient recovery has been excellent with GHFT now doing an average of over 12,900 outpatient appointments a month (106% of pre-pandemic levels). Telephone and video appointments continue to be offered as alternatives to face to face appointments where appropriate.

Inpatient operations at GHFT are now back up to 99% of the level that they were pre-pandemic. Day surgery operations are at 75% of 19/20 levels and a new day surgery unit is due to open at Cheltenham General Hospital in January which will support further recovery in this area.

There continue to be no patients in Gloucestershire waiting 104 weeks for treatment compared with over 700 across the rest of the South West.

As of 20 November, there were 43 patients waiting more than 78 weeks for treatment in Gloucestershire, compared with a total of more than 6,500 in the region.  Plans are in place to treat all patients waiting over 78 weeks as soon as possible.

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.