Improving productivity to reduce waiting times

Our programme to improve operating theatre productivity - working more efficiently to treat more patients within the same resources - is helping us tackle long waits that built up in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, while also improving patient and staff experience. We have been implementing a range of initiatives, drawing on best practice, and benchmarking our performance against that of other NHS trusts.  

The initiatives include establishing new processes to make sure everyone and everything is in the right place at the right time to avoid late starts and cancellations. We have also been improving how we schedule operations and refurbishing theatre areas to improve ‘operational flow’.  

In addition, we are now running specialty-specific operating lists at Charing Cross Hospital on alternate Saturdays, primarily for patients who have been waiting the longest. By focusing on one specialty across multiple theatres, our surgical teams can work more systematically and treat more patients per session.  

In terms of theatre ‘productivity’ performance - as measured by the number of operating sessions we run each week and the average amount of time within each of those sessions that patients are being actively treated - we have made significant progress. We now consistently use 95 per cent of our theatre sessions each week, with over 85 per cent of each session spent in active patient treatment. This puts us in the top ten of NHS trusts nationally for theatre productivity. Performance is especially high at the Western Eye Hospital where we added a third theatre last year as part of wider refurbishments. This is enabling us to treat an additional 1,960 patients this year. 

We have eliminated waits of over two years and are on track to do the same for waits over 78 weeks within the next few months. Just over 1,000 patients had been waiting over 65 weeks as of the end of February 2024 and our next target will be to bring that number down as quickly as possible. At the same time, we remain focused on minimising waiting times for patients who need treatment urgently. The vast majority of our patients with the highest ‘clinical prioritisation’ needs - for example, patients with cancer - are treated within four weeks. 

Find out more about waiting for care in our hospitals on our website.