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Lean thinking blueprint is ready to meet 18 Weeks challenges

Virtual College (Lean Healthcare Academy) : 10 October, 2007  (New Product)
The Lean Healthcare Academy, based in Ilkley, West Yorkshire is preparing to roll out its 18 Weeks blueprint nationally to other NHS Trusts and healthcare sector providers across the UK.
The Lean Healthcare Academy believes that the adoption of ‘Lean’ working practices is helping NHS Trusts meet key objectives as they strive towards delivery of the 18 Week patient pathway for the NHS.

Tackling hospital waiting times within the NHS is a crucial issue and the Government has decreed that by the end of 2008 no one must wait more than 18 weeks from GP referral to receiving hospital treatment.

Sarah Ellis, manager of the Lean Healthcare Academy, based in Ilkley, West Yorkshire, which works extensively in the healthcare sector training and supporting staff to streamline processes to improve patient care, said: 'Achieving an 18 Week pathway for all by December, 2008, is extremely ambitious and requires a contribution from everyone working in the NHS.

'It remains a massive task, but the academy is well equipped to provide the tools and the knowledge required to achieve and sustain 18 Weeks and we are already working successfully with our member NHS Trusts across West, North and South Yorkshire to help them achieve their goals.'

Julie Butler, 18 Weeks project manager with Doncaster Primary Care Trust, said: 'Facilitators from The Lean Healthcare Academy looked carefully at how we can identify and eliminate any unnecessary steps within the patient pathway to help us achieve 18 Weeks.

'They have already assisted us in identifying problem areas in the acute orthodontics pathway project at Doncaster and Bassetlaw Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which will allow us to work together in implementing a plan to reduce the backlog of patient waiting times.

'Following the success of this initiative, we are about to start a second project looking at working practices in the Trust's ophthalmology department and confidently expect to achieve similar constructive results.

'We have also organized Lean training sessions for other members of staff across the local health community so we can share the learning principles involved. The adoption of Lean thinking and practices is proving extremely beneficial in helping us work towards 18 Weeks.'

Joanne Davy, service and business improvement manager with Airedale NHS Trust and managerial lead on the18 Weeks orthopaedics project at Airedale General Hospital, Steeton, said: 'Lean working practices have successfully been in force at the hospital for some time and have already dramatically cut patient waiting times in a number of operational areas.

'We have now further adopted Lean as part of our orthopaedics project, purposely chosen because it is the toughest pathway challenge and has the longest waiting lists. We have already diagnosed which areas cause the biggest backlogs and are now moving ahead to tackle these problem areas and make the pathway much more efficient.

'The initiative has also helped increase the knowledge and awareness of staff on what can and needs to be done and, in consultation and co-operation with our partners across the region, we will be looking to roll out any improvements identified to other areas. We are confident Lean will enhance our capabilities as we strive towards our 18 Weeks targets.”

Erika Caruana, business support manager with Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, explained: 'Lean was recommended to us by Maria Neary, general manager for education and cancer services at Bradford Royal Infirmary, and we have taken it on board as part of our patient administration review, with particular reference to our ENT/EYE pathway project.

'We have successfully completed the process mapping stage and have now started to look at what needs to be done by identifying where the main pitfalls lie - then plugging any obvious gaps and shortfalls. We are well on the way and very motivated to get things done in order to improve the process for the overall benefit of our patients.'

The Lean Healthcare Academy has been working with its founding partner Airedale NHS Trust to introduce ‘Lean’ working practices which has helped reduce waiting times in two important areas.

Referral-to-diagnosis waiting times for patients with suspected bowel cancer have been halved, while waiting times for scans for undersized babies have plummeted from up to six weeks to just 24 hours.

Ellis added: 'The Lean Healthcare Academy's 18 Weeks blueprint is firmly in place and we are now in a position to roll it out nationally to other NHS Trusts and healthcare sector providers.'
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