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£1m investment in endoscopy to cut waiting times

An extra £1m has been invested in endoscopy to cut waiting times for patients in Staffordshire and Stoke on Trent.

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County Hospital in Stafford. Photo: Google

A weekend service is also being offered to help tackle a backlog which has affected University Hospitals of North Midlands (UHNM) NHS Trust’s performance in meeting national targets for diagnosing conditions such as cancer.

UHNM, which runs Royal Stoke and Stafford’s County Hospital, received confirmation of £1m of additional funding to support additional capacity using support from the independent sector, a trust spokesperson said. They added: “Alongside improvements to utilise a digital system and improve processes and booking practices it is hoped the gap between demand and capacity for endoscopy services will be met.”

The national target is for 99% of patients to wait fewer than six weeks for a diagnostic test. Figures presented to this month’s trust board meeting stated that performance was 78% overall in November – an improvement of 2% from October – and endoscopy performance was the main contributor to this performance being below the national target.

The report said: “Endoscopy remains the highest impact on diagnostic pathways. The specialty has now been taken into internal special measures with a turnaround lead being allocated and a number of actions in place.

“Insourced weekend service continues until (the end of February) and extending into County site, following external funding from WMCA (West Midlands Cancer Alliance). This resource is specifically to support reducing cancer wait time.

“Routine, urgent, surveillance and planned patients continue to have wait more than their target date. November saw a further reduction in total number of patients waiting above their target date.

“Cancer diagnostic performance remains a challenge and November performance has not seen the required improvement. Although charts show a sustained improvement, (this) is not in line with trajectory and further improvement is required to meet national milestones.”

Trust board members heard at their latest meeting that actions being put into place to reduce waits for patients requiring tests were having an effect however. Non-executive director Leigh Griffin said: “Good progress is being made on cancer performance; we do have continuing challenges around endoscopy and we are working flat out on that.”

Chief operating officer Simon Evans said: “We continue to reduce the overall backlog, which is positive. The lower GI (gastrointestinal) pathway has continued to reduce in line with some of the improvements we have had with colorectal surgery – and additional capacity we have put in for endoscopy has had an impact.”

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