• CCG and trust buying extra capacity from private hospitals
  • Number of waiters in the city of Manchester has grown by more than 10 per cent, compared to 5 per cent on average nationally
  • Trust waiting list is “being validated” and support being given by NHSI

NHS leaders in Manchester will send more patients to privately-run hospitals to tackle a spiralling waiting list for elective procedures.

Despite a national requirement for local areas to limit the size of their waiting list to “no higher” than it was in March 2018, the number of waiters in the city of Manchester has grown by more than 10 per cent.

This compares to average growth of around 5 per cent in England.

A report to the board of Manchester Health and Care Commissioning this week said commissioners were funding “additional independent sector outpatient attendances and elective procedures in February and March [2019] up to the financial value of £1.2m”.

It added that Manchester University Foundation Trust, the main provider, will also “outsource where possible” under existing contracts with private providers including BMI, Spire, and HCA Healthcare.

The report said MUFT was also receiving help from NHS Improvement’s intensive support team, and that the 18-week referral-to-treatment waiting list is currently “being validated”.

In the Manchester Clinical Commissioning Group area, the waiting list has grown from around 37,500 in March 2018 to around 42,700 in January 2019 (14 per cent).

For MUFT, which also provides care for patients from outside the city, the waiting list has grown from around 72,100 to almost 80,000 over the same period (10 per cent).

Around 88 per cent of the patients had waited more than 18 weeks, which was slightly better than the England average of 87 per cent.

The trust and CCG already spend significant amounts buying private sector capacity.

In 2017-18, the trust spent around £10m on non-NHS bodies. The CCG routinely spends around £90m per year on non-NHS bodies, although it is not clear how much of this has typically related to RTT activity.

An MUFT spokeswoman indicated the waiting list has further grown in February “in line with seasonal trends”.

She added: “The trust has made progress to manage the RTT waiting list over the course of 2018-19, in line [with] the recovery programme the trust established in July 2019.

“This programme continues to focus on the reduction of patients waiting 52 or more weeks, management of waiting list size and the preparations for the major patient administration system upgrade across the Oxford Road Campus, during the summer of 2019.”

Last year, MUFT reported a sudden spike in year-long waiters, following a review of its waiting lists and investigation of the IT systems.

The trust recently retained its overall “good” rating from the Care Quality Commission, with some services rated “outstanding”. However, its main acute site Manchester Royal Infirmary was downgraded from “good” to “requires improvement”.

Last year, NHS Improvement gave a list of trusts to private providers that they thought could benefit from extra capacity. However, there does not so far appear to have been any significant increase in the volume of work being outsourced. MUFT was not on this list.