Hospital bosses press ahead with operations shake-up plan

Hospital bosses in South Tyneside are pressing ahead with a shake-up that would see South Tyneside District Hospital provide only planned operations,

Friday, 10th September 2021, 9:10 am
South Tyneside District Hospital

The move – which has been under discussion since 2016 – would mean all emergency operations and some planned procedures taking place at Sunderland Royal Hospital.

Both hospitals would continue to provide outpatient services as well as diagnostic tests and scans.

South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust says it’s surgical teams have been ‘fine tuning working ideas’ to make sure any additional learning from COVID-19 is factored into the plans before a formal public consultation on the issue is launched later this year.

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Dr Shaz Wahid

It says the impact of the pandemic, and a need for stringent infection control measures, has made the reasons for changing surgical services ‘even more, not less, urgent’ as part of it’s ‘Path to Excellence’ project.

With the national decision to postpone all non-urgent operations at the start of the pandemic leaving the NHS with a backlog of patients waiting for surgery, the change in service provision would also help the NHS be better prepared for periods when lots of people need to be admitted.

Hospital bosses say they want to ensure surgical services are arranged in a way that minimises any such disruption in future and helps the NHS reduce waiting lists and avoid further delays or cancellations for people who need planned operations.

Dr Shaz Wahid, the Trust’s executive medical director, said: “There is no doubt that COVID-19 has increased the pressures on our surgical services and we cannot lose sight of the vital improvements we still need to make.

“We know that organising surgery with emergency operations at one hospital and planned operations at another is a tried and tested model. Many other parts of the NHS have done it with great success.

“This would mean some patients would need to travel to a different hospital and we want to be upfront, open and honest about that. But we also believe there are many benefits that would outweigh the downside of this.”

He added: “Most importantly, all other appointments would still take place locally and it is only the surgical procedure that may take place at a different hospital in future, everything else would continue as it is now.”

Dr Neil O’Brien, a local GP and accountable officer for Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) across South Tyneside, Sunderland and County Durham said: “Now more than ever, it is important that we continue to focus on building strong and resilient services for the future.

“The Path to Excellence clinical design teams are now busy fine tuning the working ideas for the future of surgical services.

"The aim is very simple – we want to provide the very highest quality of care and timely access to all patients who need an operation.”

The ‘Updated Draft Case for Change (September 2021)’, is the fifth key document in the ‘Path to Excellence’ programme and will eventually form part of a formal public consultation later in the year.

To find out more about the updated Draft Case for Change and how to get involved and give views, go to https://pathtoexcellence.org.uk/publications/case-for-change/