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With waiting lists rising, NHS trusts will need to be increasingly creative in their plans to reduce the backlog of patients needing tests and treatment.

One of England’s most integrated trusts has come up with its own “game-changing” scheme to expand diagnostic capacity, which health chiefs also believe is a first-of-its-kind for the NHS.

Somerset Foundation Trust, which provides acute, community, mental health and primary care services, has opened a new imaging centre with Rutherford Diagnostics Ltd. The latter is a subsidiary of Rutherford Health plc.

The centre has been endorsed by Sir Mike Richards, whose review of NHS diagnostic services last year called for a “rapid expansion” of capacity. He described SFT’s scheme as the “first community diagnostics centre run by the independent sector in partnership with the NHS”.

SFT CEO Peter Lewis told HSJ the centre will immediately boost the trust’s CT capacity by 25 per cent, and increase MRI capacity by the same amount within three months.

It is hoped this will help the trust achieve the six-week national standard to provide 99 per cent of patients with diagnostic imaging by March next year – a target most acute trusts are currently missing.

Up to 40 community diagnostic centres are set to open in the next six months, thanks to government funding, but trusts may still need to follow in SFT’s footsteps and look for more partnerships in order to bring waiting times back to acceptable levels.

CQC takes dim view of ‘corridor care’

“Pressure” on emergency department staff to re-introduce “corridor care” played a part in University Hospitals Birmingham Foundation Trust losing its “good” status from the Care Quality Commission.

The trust’s overall rating has changed to “requires improvement” and the organisation has also lost its “outstanding” rating in the “well-led” category. It is now rated “good” on this measure.

The trust has treated more covid patients than any other, with high numbers throughout much of the pandemic, particularly in intensive care.

The care regulator said staff reported feeling “pressured” by senior managers to implement “corridor care” plans in the ED, meaning where patients are looked after on trolleys in corridors for extended periods. Staff were reported to be “significantly” opposed to it due to safety concerns, and the fire safety adviser warned it would contravene fire regulations.