- Over 50 new surgical hubs will open across the country to help bust the COVID-19 backlog and offer hundreds of thousands more patients quicker access to procedures.
- Beds and theatres will help reduce waiting times and offer patients access to vital operations
- Beds will be ringfenced for planned operations, reducing the risk of short-notice cancellations
Over 50 new surgical hubs will open across the country to help bust the COVID-19 backlogs and offer hundreds of thousands more patients quicker access to vital procedures, Health and Social Care Secretary, Steve Barclay, has announced.
These hubs will provide at least 100 more operating theatres and over 1,000 beds so people get the surgery they need.
And they will deliver almost two million extra routine operations to reduce waiting lists over the next three years, backed by £1.5billion in government funding.
This breaks down to over 200,000 extra procedures in 2022/2023, over 700,000 extra procedures in 2023/2024, and one million extra procedures by 2024/2025.
They will focus mainly on providing high-volume, low-complexity surgery, as previously recommended by the Royal College of Surgeons of England, with particular emphasis on ophthalmology, general surgery, trauma and orthopaedics, gynaecology, ear nose and throat, and urology.
Located on existing hospital sites, the surgical hubs will bring together skills and expertise of staff under one roof – reducing waiting times for some of the most-common procedures such as cataract surgeries and hip replacements.
Improving quality and efficiency will mean patients have shorter waits for surgery, will be more likely to go home on the same day, and will be less likely to need additional treatment.
And, as the hubs are separated from emergency services, surgical beds are kept free for patients waiting for planned operations, reducing the risk of short-notice cancellations and improving infection control.
Barclay said: “In order to bust the COVID-19 backlogs and keep pace with future demands, we can’t simply have business as usual.
Surgical hubs are a vital part of plans to recover elective services across England and these new sites will be a welcome boost in helping us to further tackle the COVID-19 backlogs that have inevitably built up over the pandemic
“Surgical hubs are a really-tangible example of how we are already innovating and expanding capacity to fill surgical gaps right across the country, to boost the number of operations and reduce waiting times for vital procedures.
“We have already made progress in tackling the longest waiting lists to offer patients quicker access to treatment, and these new surgical hubs will, in their own right, deliver additional operations over the next three years, including over 200,000 this year alone.
NHS chief executive, Amanda Pritchard, added: “Surgical hubs are a vital part of plans to recover elective services across England and these new sites will be a welcome boost in helping us to further tackle the COVID-19 backlogs that have inevitably built up over the pandemic.
“The NHS has made significant progress already, virtually eliminating two-year waits for care by the end of July; and from surgical hubs to robotic surgery, our staff continue to find innovative ways to speed up care for patients.”
The hubs will also help address variation in performance between trusts, as they are required to meet national standards on numbers of operations, the full use of theatre facilities, and ensuring patients are discharged on the same day as their operation. All of this will help to drive up performance across the country.
The government has worked with the NHS to identify which areas will benefit most from surgical hubs.
The selection process is clinically led and aims to ensure the new hubs are connected to the right local services – such as acute hospital sites – and tackle local healthcare inequalities while promoting the best outcomes for patients and delivering value for taxpayers.
Surgical hubs are a really-tangible example of how we are already innovating and expanding capacity to fill surgical gaps right across the country, to boost the number of operations and reduce waiting times for vital procedures
So far, locations for 20 new, or expanded, hubs have already been confirmed, and bids for the remaining units are set to be considered over the coming weeks and months as more business cases are received to determine that the new sites meet design standards.
The hubs will offer a mix of outpatient and admitted, including overnight or daycase, surgeries.
Currently, 91 surgical hubs have already been opened, meaning that in total more than 140 hubs will be open across England by 2024 to 2025. These include:
- The South West London Elective Orthopaedic Centre, which contains five state-of-the-art operating theatres and accepts patients from all over the UK. It performs approximately 5,200 procedures a year, 3,000 of which are joint replacements
- The hub at the Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has increased surgical capacity by 25%, with improvement plans now in place to significantly reduce cancellations
- United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has cut the length of stay for patients undergoing hip and knee replacements, resulting in an average reduction of two days and allowing more people to go home the day after surgery
The new comes as the Government commits £5.9billion in capital investment to support elective recovery in the coming years.
Along with surgical hubs, the NHS is changing the way diagnostic services are delivered by opening over 90 community diagnostic centres across the country in locations such as football stadiums and shopping centres.
They have already delivered over 1.6 million checks, tests, and scans, offering patients a range of healthcare services closer to home.
By 2025, up to 160 will be up and running.
Welcoming the news, Barbara Harpham, chairman of the Medical Technology Group (MTG), told BBH: “These facilities are in part made possible by the sort of technology that we campaign for in the NHS.
“They show that medical technology is not just crucial for the recovery from the pandemic, but also for futureproofing our health service to ensure it has sufficient capacity in the long term.
We believe it is not only important to identify poorly-performing regions to provide them with extra support, but to also champion high-performing regions; those that have succeeded against the odds in their use of innovation and innovative thinking
“Most importantly, we are pleased to see the Government allocate funding to these hubs based on regional needs.
“The extra funding for the Midlands and London, for example, corresponds to the findings in our Ration Watch campaign, which has been working to identify regional inequalities in the NHS since 2019.
“We believe it is not only important to identify poorly-performing regions to provide them with extra support, but to also champion high-performing regions; those that have succeeded against the odds in their use of innovation and innovative thinking.
“By learning from, and championing, these trusts, we can set a new benchmark of care to ensure that every patient in the country benefits from the world-class care the NHS is capable of delivering.”