Patients benefiting from £5.5m investment in new theatres at North East hospital – Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust

The second phase of the major refurbishment of the facilities at Wansbeck General Hospital, in Ashington, was completed at the end of last month, providing an additional boost to Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust’s ongoing efforts to minimise waiting times for planned operations.

The latest works involved the full remodelling of theatres 1 to 4 plus the associated ancillary spaces and followed the completion of phase one, covering theatres 5 and 6, in June 2021.

The refurbishment includes a significant upgrade of theatre environment and space redesign to improve staff and patient flow alongside reducing the risk of infection during surgery.

As well as the operating theatres themselves, the work includes remodelling of many support spaces and ancillary functions such as offices, store rooms, changing rooms and main corridor.

The revamp will see the increase of more laminar flow theatres from 4 to 6, which will provide more flexibility to increase many types of surgery, including spinal and orthopaedic operations. As a result, this will increase the efficiency of how the theatres can be used, leading to shorter waiting times for patients.

Marion Dickson, Northumbria Healthcare’s executive director responsible for surgery, said: “I’m delighted that this important project has been completed successfully and that we now have six new state-of-the-art theatres available for our patients.

“We are working incredibly hard to ensure waiting times for patients remain as short as possible and while we are not where we want to be, our performance on a national level continues to be very strong. This is because of the fantastic efforts of staff, our model of care and a continuing focus on innovation and investment, like this renovation.”

Wansbeck, in common with the trust’s other two general hospitals at Hexham and North Tyneside, is a centre of surgical excellence, following a series of enhancements in the wake of the opening Northumbria Specialist Emergency Care Hospital (NSECH) in 2015.

This model has meant a separation of emergency medicine from elective and non-urgent operations, which proved its merits during the pandemic. NSECH was the designated Covid hub, enabling the trust to continue a significant quantity of elective and non-urgent operations at Wansbeck and the other general hospitals.

In addition, a focus on day case surgery has been an innovation developed over several years and means the trust is able to treat more patients, maximise capacity and discharge people home quicker.

Scott Muller, consultant orthopaedic surgeon and project lead, said: “I’m proud to be part of a highly-skilled team of staff delivering and supporting surgery for patients in Northumberland and North Tyneside, the wider region and beyond.

“Our people are the ones responsible for delivering the high-quality care that people expect from Northumbria, but their jobs are made much easier by ensuring they can work in top-of-the-range facilities with a wide range of benefits for patients and staff.

“I would also like to thank lead contractor Medical Air Technology (MAT), who were considerate and conscientious as they worked closely with trust estates and clinical teams to minimise disruption and complete the project on time.”

Since the opening of NSECH, Wansbeck has performed almost 7,000 operations every year. Around half of these are orthopaedic procedures like hip and knee replacements.

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