A PIONEERING scheme to cut waste and inefficiency at the Royal Bolton Hospital is set to be extended to the rest of the country.

Nine months ago the hospital became one of only six in the world and the only one in the UK to introduce "lean thinking".

Over those nine months, paper work has been reduced at the hospital and patients are discharged more rapidly.

Lean thinking tracks people from the moment they enter the hospital until the moment they leave to make sure they are treated in the most efficient way.

Mortality rates have been cut by a third after services were redesigned around the needs of the patients, instead of the convenience of the staff.

David Fillingham, chief executive of the Royal Bolton Hospital, said: "What makes lean thinking so powerful is that it engages the enthusiasm of frontline staff."

Lean thinking is the principle that work is a process which can be streamlined, with maximum efficiency, by the removal of waste and by close observation at each stage.

Since the introduction of lean thinking, the length of time it takes a patient to get from the accident and emergency to the operating theatre has been reduced by 38 per cent. Paper work has been cut by 42 per cent and the total time patients spend in hospital has been slashed by 32 per cent.

Lean thinking in the pathology department, where blood samples are tested, lean thinking has been used to clear holdups in the system.

It has cut the time taken to process samples from between 24 to 30 hours to between just two and three hours.

Staff levels have been reduced and extra people are being redeployed within the hospital, the space the department needs is 50 per cent less than previously and the time taken to do most jobs has been slashed by 90 per cent.

Lean thinking was developed by Toyota, and has been adopted by Tesco, the RAF and the Royal Air Force.

Dr Gill Morgan, who is the NHS Confederation chief executive, said: "We know that our case for extra funding will fall on deaf ears unless we cut out waste in the system. The work in Bolton show us what can be done.

"Lean thinking works because it is based on doctors, nurses and other staff leading the process and telling us what adds value and what doesn't. They are the ones who know."