Concise guide offers actions for reducing waiting times for children and young people’s surgery

NHS teams focusing on reducing surgical waiting times for children and young people can now access guidance featuring ten practical measures to help tackle the backlog.

NHS colleagues are working hard to restore elective care, but data shows that activity for children and young people (CYP) is still below pre-pandemic levels and recovery remains behind rates seen in adult services. The specialties of ENT, dental services, ophthalmology, urology, and trauma and orthopaedics (including spinal surgery) are especially challenged, with the longest waiting lists for surgery for young patients.

Getting It Right First Time (GIRFT) has supported NHS England’s drive for CYP elective recovery by developing concise guidance – Closing the gap: Actions to reduce waiting times for children and young people – offering ten actions which can help reduce waiting times for children, as well as quick links to data, resources and best practice case studies. These complement the NHSE national toolkit for elective recovery for children and young people and other resources provided on the CYP transformation programme workspace.

The ten actions address how to improve theatre capacity, increase theatre utilisation and streamline pathways of care, and include practical measure such as adding extra sessions or ‘super events’ for children’s surgery, avoiding procedures of limited medical benefit by using clinical decision tools, and staggering children’s admission times.

The guidance links to a series of case studies demonstrating how teams across England have taken innovative measures to address their waiting times. For example, in Bath and north-east Somerset, Swindon and Wiltshire, a collaboration across the Integrated Care System saw waiting lists for paediatric tooth extractions reduced as a result of focused ‘super weekends’.

“We are all working hard to reduce waiting times across the NHS. However, the data shows us that children and young people are getting left behind. A two-year wait for surgery can be over half of a young child's life and may have lifelong consequences. I hope that this guidance will inspire clinical teams, with practical measures that can be taken to 'close the gap' and improve care for our precious younger generation."

GIRFT and NHS England’s CYP Transformation team recently launched the Summary Paediatric Indicator Table (SPaedIT), a new data tool helping providers to accelerate elective recovery for children and young people (CYP).

The tool brings together provider-level data summarising demand, capacity, flow and outcomes, all in one place in an easily-accessible dashboard, enabling clinicians and managers to evaluate their performance, understand where they can improve and target the causes accordingly.

A webinar was held in July 2023 to demonstrate the tool and outline its uses and benefits. Watch the recording.

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