Dramatically reducing time from GP referral to hospital treatment by 84%

The challenge

The NHS Improvement Plan introduced the Government’s ambition that no one would wait longer than 18  weeks from GP referral to hospital treatment. To meet  the target, Unipart’s NHS customer established a delivery  programme called Transforming Care. 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.

How we helped

With a clear focus on the patient and getting things  right first time, the team began by engaging employees, from  all areas and at all 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 then implement solutions that would 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 that allowed for 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 and resource 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 cost.  But, more importantly, it left employees with the skills,  tools and confidence to sustain and further develop the processes that they themselves have helped redesign.