• Text Size: A A A

Programme of improvements for our outpatients

22 June 2016, Sarah Newall, Communications

Our Outpatient Transformation Programme has successfully delivered some really significant changes - we now have improved data, systems and processes and we’re making sure we are getting the basics right for our patients.

In September last year the Care Quality Commission rated the care given to patients attending Outpatients and Diagnostic Imaging at St Albans City Hospital and Hemel Hempstead as ’good’. However, they concluded that these departments were inadequate under the categories of ‘safe’ at Watford General and ‘well-led’ at both Watford and Hemel Hempstead Hospital.

They noted that clinics were often cancelled at short notice and that patients experienced significant delays when waiting for appointments as a result of overbooking and capacity issues – particularly in respiratory medicine. They also said that patients were not kept informed of waiting times whilst in clinic, that patient records were not always available and that they were not always stored securely.

In addition they said patient concerns and complaints did not always lead to improvements in the quality of care and there were no regular audits of service delivery or patient feedback.

In response to these findings the Outpatient Programme Board was promptly formed to design and develop the Outpatient Transformation Programme, improving patient experience through three key work streams; Getting the basics right, Systems & Processes and Data & Information.

Part of the programme was the introduction of a new phone system which means call waiting times are now down from 19 to 4-5 minutes and now only 5% of calls are abandoned, down from 50%.

Another great change has been in Respiratory Medicine, where 18 week referral to treatment performance has improved significantly from 65% to 97%, which for patients means shorter waiting times and quicker access to this service.

Jane Shentall, Director of Operational Development & Elective Care Performance, said: “The robust plan was designed to ensure that our outpatient services are ‘safe, responsive, well-led and deliver patient focussed care in an environment fit for purpose, with adequate facilities which meet our patients’ needs.’ “Getting things right at this stage of the pathway can have significant benefits in terms of patient safety, quality and cost further downstream. The management and delivery of outpatient services is frequently complex, often requiring the co-ordinated delivery of parallel and/or sequential process steps by a range of clinical and non-clinical staff across many disciplines and departments. This can often present challenges but we think after considered review we are now getting things right.”

List of programme improvements

» View a list of the programme improvements


  1. For more information, please contact Sarah Newall, Communications in the Trust’s Communications department on telephone: 01923 436 280 or email: info@whht.nhs.uk. Out of hours, please call 07900 228 031.
  2. West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust is a large acute trust serving people from across Hertfordshire, north London and further afield. It operates from three sites at Watford, St Albans and Hemel Hempstead hospitals and sees about 600,000 patients a year. We are one of the largest employers locally, with around 4,500 staff and volunteers.