Published on: 24 November 2023

NHS Foundation Trusts (FTs) across the North East and North Cumbria Provider Collaborative (NENC Providers) are leading the way in reducing waiting times across the NHS.

Latest data published by NHS England shows that over 69% of patients in the North East and North Cumbria are now getting their treatment within 18 weeks of referral from their GP.  This surpasses the national average of 57.6% as the NHS continues to do all it can to reduce waiting lists.

It means patients who need planned care in the North East and North Cumbria are currently getting access to their treatment quicker than anywhere else in the NHS, but NENC Providers say this is still not good enough.

Through the region’s Provider Collaborative, all FTs have now pledged to go even further to reduce the amount of time people have to wait for their planned treatment.  Efforts are focussed on those people who have been waiting the longest amount of time, with a commitment to make sure no one waits more than 65 weeks by the end of March 2024.

Although the region’s performance is currently the best in the NHS, there is still a long way to go to get back to the 92% standard for all planned patients to be seen within 18 weeks of referral by their GP.

The region’s Provider Collaborative is helping all FTs to work together to look collectively at the waiting list picture across the whole region and offer learning and mutual support in those specialities which are under most pressure.  Areas like Orthopaedics (people waiting for hip or knee surgery) and Ophthalmology (people waiting for eye treatment) are some of the biggest pressure points in the region.  Where possible and where patients are willing, they are being offered the chance to have their treatment sooner at an alternative provider in the North East and North Cumbria.    

Ken Bremner MBE, is Chair of the NENC Provider Collaborative and Chief Executive at South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust.  He said:  

“The latest figures from NHS England show the collective efforts being made to minimise waiting times for residents in the region who need planned care.

“We still have a long way to go but we want every person to know how important this is for the region’s NHS and how committed we are to do all that we can to get back to where we were before we were struck by the pandemic.

“We are now entering a very busy time for the NHS as we head into the winter months but that will not stop our relentless focus to improve waiting times.  We understand the impact that any delays to treatment can have and we do not underestimate this.  Behind every number is a person and a family whose lives and loved ones are affected.”

Efforts by NENC Providers are also focused on maximising how operating theatres are being used to make sure as many procedures as possible can be done every single day.   Best practice is being shared through the Provider Collaborative to ensure that every hospital can see as many patients as possible who need surgery.

Hospital bosses in the region say they also need help from patients too.  With over 5 million outpatients appointments every year across the region’s hospitals, around 7% of these are not attended by patients.  This equates to over 29,000 hospital appointments wasted every single month across the North East and North Cumbria (350,000 appointments a year) that could be available for others on the waiting list.  

NENC Providers will be appealing to patients to make sure they let their local hospital know if they do not intend to come to their appointment.  The aim across the region’s NHS Foundation Trusts is to reduce the number of missed appointments by patients by 2% over the next 12 months.  This would release the equivalent of 100,000 extra appointment slots for other people on the waiting list.

Lyn Simpson is Vice Chair of NENC Provider Collaborative and Chief Executive of North Cumbria Integrated Care NHS Foundation Trust.  She said:

“It is really important that our patients don’t miss any appointment slots as we strive to reduce waiting times.  

“We understand when people have been waiting a long time if they feel they no longer need our help.  That is fine, but all we ask is that people let us know as far as possible in advance so we can try to use that time to see another patient.  We really do need the support of patients and the public too as we continue our efforts to reduce waiting lists.”