Improving patient care and reducing costs for NHS Trusts

The NHS Improvement Plan introduced the Government’s ambition that no one would wait longer than 18 weeks from GP referral to hospital treatment. Unipart’s NHS customer established a delivery programme called Transforming Care to meet the target. The programme used Lean thinking to redesign and deliver sustainable 18-week patient pathways.

An NHS Trust commissioned Unipart Consultancy and Atos to work in partnership with nine local health communities on 15 projects to deliver the Transforming Care programme in a wide range of pathways across the spectrum of care.

Doctor explaining referal to patient

How we helped

With a clear focus on the patient and getting things right the first time, the team began by engaging employees from all areas and levels across the projects to help identify issues affecting the various patient pathways. Our consultants and Atos consultants then worked with employees to define and implement solutions to improve quality and productivity across all 15 projects.

Standard processes were developed that could flex to demand and were sustainable. In the process, the teams created extra capacity and reduced costs, crucially reducing waiting times and significantly improving the patient experience.

Our consultants also focused on building employee capability to sustain and continuously improve the new, more efficient ways of working that had been introduced.


As a result of our joint work, significant benefits have been realised in many areas and across numerous pathways, including:

  • 50% reduction in patients failing to attend in a shoulder pathway enabled a capacity increase of 3000 new outpatient appointments per year
  • Waiting time reduced from 8 to 2 weeks, representing a 75% improvement in lead time in a shoulder pain pathway
  • 84% improvement in average referral to treatment  time in a Gynaecological department, while reducing the number of follow-on appointments, increased the capacity of an additional 11 consultant sessions  and 13 physiotherapy sessions a week
  • Reduction of 33 weeks waiting time (from 44 to 11 weeks) for an Orthopaedic pathway
  • Waiting time for Physiotherapy appointments down from 19 weeks to 2 weeks
  • 20% reduction in inappropriate referrals
  • New follow-up booking procedure to maximise clinical time resulted in the saving of 25 weeks of clinical time per year
  • Improved capacity by utilising 15 extra clinic sessions  in a Cardiology department that reduced the number  of people waiting for treatment by 20%
  • Improved baseline performance from 86% to 99.3% conformance to the Department of Health’s national four-hour target in an Accident & Emergency department
  • Improved value add resources to improve patient experience, resulting in projected savings of circa £1.2 million on agency staff per annum.

Our approach contributed towards helping PCTs and Trusts achieve challenging targets and drive down costs. But, more importantly, it left employees with the skills, tools and confidence to sustain and further develop the processes that they helped redesign.