Published on: 25th May 2021

North Central London (NCL) has been chosen by NHS England to become one of 13 Integrated Care Systems (ICS) to become an ‘elective accelerator system’. As an ‘elective accelerator system’ hospitals, GPs and commissioners in NCL will work together develop new ways to make the best use of our resources to reduce waiting lists and treat patients faster.

Indicators suggest operations and other elective activity were already at four fifths of pre-pandemic levels in April, well ahead of the 70% threshold set out in official guidance. That was despite NHS staff still dealing with thousands of Covid patients, having to take additional steps such as infection control measures to keep patients safe and rolling out the largest vaccination programme in health service history.

NHS England is now seeking to accelerate the recovery by trialling new ways of working in a dozen areas and five specialist children’s hospitals. Among those areas is NCL, which includes RNOH.

Lucy Davies, RNOH Chief Operating Officer, said: “We are really pleased at RNOH to have the opportunity to treat more patients via the Accelerator Programme.  This will help us to address increased clinical urgency and longer waits resulting from the pandemic.  We are planning to treat additional children and adults in outpatients, diagnostics, day case and inpatient settings.”

This is a great opportunity for us to focus on reducing patient waiting lists, and means that NCL ICS can access additional funding and support for recovery of elective care, outpatient and diagnostic appointments. NCL ICS has a target of delivering 120% of our 2019 activity by the end of July.

We will also continue to stick to our principles of ensuring that the most clinically urgent patients are seen first, where possible, and that we are treating all patients fairly.

Virtual wards and home assessments, 3D eye scanners, at-home antibiotic kits, ‘pre-hab’ for patients about to undergo surgery, AI in GP surgeries and ‘Super Saturday’ clinics - where multi-disciplinary teams come together at the weekend to offer more specialist appointments – will also be trialled.

The aim is to meet or exceed the same number of tests and treatments as they did in 2019 and develop a blueprint for elective recovery to incentivise hospitals to further and faster.

Professor Stephen Powis, NHS National Medical Director, said: “Treating around 400,000 Covid patients over the past year along with additional safety measures has inevitably had a knock-on effect on non-urgent care, but our incredible staff still managed perform more than two million operations and other treatments in the first two months of this year when the hospitals were at their busiest with Covid patients.

“Early reports suggest the NHS is already bouncing back faster after the second wave but we want to go further, faster which is why we are investing £160 million to find new ways to tackle waiting lists.

“With Covid cases in hospitals now significantly reducing thanks to the extraordinary success of the NHS vaccination programme, our mission on rapidly recovering routine services, and these figures show local teams are already well ahead of schedule.

“The additional support announced today will help us create a blueprint for continuing that progress over summer and beyond, in a way that doesn’t heap extra pressure on staff, so that as many people as possible benefit from the world-class care the NHS provides.”

Thanks to its agile response to Covid-19, and the hard work of staff to keep non-Covid services going, the NHS has been able to deliver more than 12 million planned operations and procedures, and over 19 million key diagnostic tests, since the beginning of the pandemic.

Despite caring for a far greater number of Covid patients in the second peak, hospitals also maintained high levels of planned care compared to the previous year, and average waiting times for planned surgery have fallen by almost 40% from July 2020.

NHS staff completed almost two million operations and other elective care in the first two months of this year while also providing hospital treatment for almost 140,000 Covid patients, around two in five of everyone who has required hospital care for the virus since it first hit.

The number of treatments delivered in January and February was over 800,000 or 70% higher than during the height of the first wave.

The emerging data suggests services have already bounced back quicker than they did over last summer, when it took until September to get back to 80% of usual levels of treatment.

We’ll keep you updated on how this is progressing and some staff will have an opportunity to get more involved over the next few weeks.