RMS Warns to Prepare Early for Winter Pressures

Radiology Management Solutions (RMS) warns hospitals that they need to be prepared for another winter of increasing winter pressure across all departments. Although receiving less media coverage than in previous years, last winter saw some of the worst statistics on delivering healthcare over the winter period.

The British Medical Association’s Winter Pressures Report 2018 – 2019 highlighted the following stats:

  • 1 in 4 waited over 4 hours in A&E departments – with emergency admissions up 96,000 on last year to 1.62 million
  • 678 urgent operations cancelled January/February 2019
  • The average bed occupancy rate remained very high, at 93.5%. The worst day of the winter saw 95.7% of beds across England occupied
  • With A&Es under pressure and bed capacity over recommended levels, elective treatment suffered. The waiting list for treatment rose to 4.3 million people and waits over 18 weeks were up by over a fifth.

Importantly, increased winter pressures across hospitals is linked to a deterioration in cancer care. Two key targets for cancer waiting times are that 93% of patients should be seen by a cancer specialist within two weeks of an urgent GP referral and that 85% of patients should receive their first treatment within 62 days of an urgent GP referral.

The BMA reports that in winter 2018/19 24% of cancer patients waited over 2 months for treatment following referral and close to 70% of providers missed the target for patients to be treated within 62 days of referral in both January and February.

Diagnostic Imaging is often at the core of a Hospital’s ability to reduce waiting lists and bed blocking, with many patients needing to be scanned before they can be assessed, diagnosed and moved for treatment.

RMS work with many hospitals to help reduce radiology waiting lists through opening up radiology departments with their own staff out of hours and at weekends, using existing NHS equipment to maximise a Trust’s investment in diagnostic equipment. In the last year RMS helped an additional 64,000 patients receive CT and MRI scans.

Commercial Director Mike Lancaster commented “We are keen to help as many hospitals deliver a robust scanning service through the winter period. It seems early to start planning for winter months, but the sooner we can understand a hospital’s waiting lists, the sooner we are able to make an impact and help patients to be scanned and diagnosed. With imaging being at the heart of hospitals over the winter period, it’s key that Trusts don’t ignore the pressure that will be on the radiology department.”

To enable Trusts to quickly access radiology services, RMS has collaborated with the Countess of Chester Hospital NHS Foundation Trust to develop a Framework agreement for the provision of radiology services. This means that NHS Trusts, and other public bodies, can quickly and efficiently implement an outsourced scanning solution, irrespective of internal NHS staffing issues.