Hospitals boss looks to seven-day working week to beat waiting times

The Oxford Times: Sir Jonathan Michael Sir Jonathan Michael

SEVEN-DAY working is among the actions being taken by hospital bosses to address waiting time concerns.

Hospitals chief Sir Jonathan Michael said he hopes sites like the John Radcliffe will meet national targets within three months.

Waiting times were among concerns in Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust’s largest ever inspection, published last month.

Rising demand has been blamed for pressure on services at trust hospitals, which also include Oxford’s Churchill and Banbury’s Horton.

For example, planned admissions that needed an overnight stay rose from 22,312 in 2012/13 to 24,208 the following year.

Latest figures, for March, show 80.6 per cent of patients needing non-urgent, doctor-led hospital treatment were seen within 18 weeks.

This is against a target of 90 per cent while 90.1 per cent were seen within four hours at A&E in April against a target of 95 per cent.

And it missed a target that 85 per cent of urgent GP cancer referrals are treated within 62 days, from September to February, but not March.

This meant 833 were seen within 62 days from September to February, while 175 waited longer.

Like the 18 week target, this will include some referred outside of the county like Reading’s Royal Berkshire Hospital.

Trust chief executive Sir Jonathan said it is looking at seven-day working, more routine operations and more extra operating lists six days a week.

New software had led to radiotherapy treatment delays and had been resolved, he said, and it is now being offered seven days a week.

“We have still got work to do to ensure we meet the waiting time targets.

“But we told them that we think we can get on top of them over the next two to three months, deliver the improvements and get performance back under control.”

A February inspection by the Care Quality Commission said waits were often “due to the lack of available beds to discharge people effectively” in A&E.

Surgery operations were cancelled too often, it said, though it rated the trust “good” overall.

Meeting waiting targets is vital for the trust to get foundation status, giving it greater control over decision making and finances.

The Trust Development Authority – assessing the foundation bid – said waits must improve before the bid can go to the final stages.

Sir Jonathan: “There was a period where our performance has slipped. There are complex reason for it some under our control and some not.”

It is also planning to work more closely with community services authority Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust to cut the number of OAP hospital admissions.

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