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New surgical hubs will ‘help to bust the COVID-19 backlogs’

Over 50 new surgical hubs will open across England ‘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.

The Department of Health & Social Care says the ‘hubs’ will provide at least 100 more operating theatres and over 1,000 beds so people get the surgery they need. The Department said: “They will deliver almost two million extra routine operations to reduce waiting lists over the next three years, backed by £1.5 billion in government funding. This breaks down to over 200,000 extra procedures in 2022 to 2023, over 700,000 extra procedures in 2023 to 2024, and 1 million extra procedures by 2024 to 2025.”

The hubs 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, orthopaedics, gynaecology, ear, nose, and throat, and urology.

“Located on existing hospital sites, surgical hubs 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,” the Department of Health explained. “These operations can be performed quickly and effectively in one place. 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.”

Steve Barclay said: “To bust the COVID-19 backlogs and keep pace with future demands, we can’t simply have business as usual. 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.

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 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. 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. The Government has worked with the NHS to identify which areas will benefit most from them. The selection process for surgical hub locations is clinically led, and aims to ensure that 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’.

 

So far, locations for 20 new or expanded hubs have already been confirmed, and bids for the remaining hubs are set to be considered over the coming weeks and months as more business cases are received to determine the new sites meet design standards. The new hubs will offer a mix of outpatient and admitted (including overnight or day case) surgeries, delivering nearly two million additional procedures over the next three years, equal to 12% of all elective activity in 2019 to 2020. They will encourage the most efficient forms of surgeries, ensuring fewer patients are kept overnight, and saving more time to carry out additional operations.

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. The surgical hubs are funded as part of the £1.5 billion allocated at the Spending Review in 2021. This funding is also upgrading existing hubs.

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