Long read: The state of north east London's NHS trusts
PUBLISHED: 07:00 19 September 2017 | UPDATED: 09:52 19 September 2017
In the first in a series of monthly health specials, we look at north east London's healthcare and discuss with local experts the biggest challenges it faces.
Across the area, medical services are facing many of the same problems – a rapidly increasing population, growing demand for services and shrinking budgets.
As a result of these issues, both of east London’s largest trusts, Barts Health and Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust (BHRUT), have faced difficulties in recent years.
Each trust was placed into special measures earlier this decade.
While BHRUT was taken out of special measures in March after three years as a result of what the Care Quality Commission (CQC) deemed “transformational improvements”, financial difficulties at Barts means it remains under close watch by the NHS’ Trust Development Authority.
BHRUT runs both Queen’s Hospital in Romford and King George Hospital in Goodmayes and provides medical services for both those boroughs as well as Barking and Dagenham.
The trust has been celebrating recently after meeting governmental referral to treatment (RTT) targets for the first time in three years.
Nationwide, the NHS aims to see any patients referred to hospital by GPs within 18 weeks, but in December 2013 a database update revealed more than 1,000 BHRUT patients had been waiting for more than a year.
In June, the trust was thrilled to announce it had seen 92.18pc of referrals in that time, above the national standard of 92pc.
One of the longest running health issues in east London has been proposals to downgrade King George’s A&E to an urgent care centre.
The controversial North East London Sustainability and Transformation Plan (STP) was signed off by the government in 2011.
In July, the government released a new wave of STP funding, which would entitle BHRUT to up to £5million of capital funding to redesign the urgent care centre.
But campaigners continue to insist the move is not viable, and last month Havering Council joined Redbridge in calling for an urgent review of the plan.
The trust’s chief executive Matthew Hopkins said he was looking forward to improving both hospitals’ emergency departments.
He said: “At Queen’s particularly we will be improving our emergency department reception, urgent care centre and treatment areas for patients, having successfully bid for money from the Department of Health as well as using our own money.”
He added: “We also have some exciting developments in our cancer therapy department in the pipeline. We have some new cutting edge scanning technology coming to our trust to help our cancer patients, which we look forward to unveiling shortly.”
Residents of Newham and Tower Hamlets will more often than not be cared for at hospitals run by Barts Health.
The largest hospital trust in the UK, it operates Whitechapel’s Royal London Hospital, Newham University Hospital, Whipps Cross in Leytonstone and Mile End and St Bartholomew’s hospitals.
Recently, Barts Health has focused on ensuring patients do not stay in hospital longer than necessary, with dedicated teams across all of its hospitals now working with senior doctors to review all inpatients daily.
This move has already seen the average length of patient stays at The Royal London fall by an average of nine days.
A Barts Health spokeswoman said: “More than a thousand patients a day are successfully seen and treated within four hours in our three emergency departments at The Royal London, Whipps Cross and Newham hospitals.
“However, with winter coming we know there is more we can do to prepare for what is the busiest time of year, which is why we are delighted to have been awarded over £1.7million to ease these pressures.
“There is also much that local people can do to support us.
“Know which services can help provide you with care such as pharmacies, GPs and 111, and stay well by ensuring you have your flu jab if you are over 65, have a long-term condition (including diabetes and kidney disease) or if you are pregnant.”