New Chorley Hospital theatres could help clear operations backlog in Central Lancashire as a result of Covid pandemic

The trust that runs Chorley and South Ribble Hospital hopes that the opening of three new theatres on the site will help reduce a backlog in pre-planned surgery across Central Lancashire caused by the pandemic.

By Paul Faulkner
Monday, 8th November 2021, 4:20 pm

The facilities were officially unveiled during a ceremony on Friday afternoon - and the first patients will be treated there this week.

Day case operations that will be performed in the new space range from minor procedures through to more complex surgery such as breast mastectomies, neuro-spinal activity and orthopaedic joint work.

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Dr James Wilson, Katie Tierney and Alison Brzezinski are making the finishing preparations ahead of the first patients arriving at Chorley and South Ribble Hospital's new suite of three theatres (all images: Neil Cross)

The theatres will benefit from the opening of a surgical enhanced care unit earlier this year, which will increase the level of post-operative care available on the wards for patients who have been treated at the Euxton Lane hospital.

“[As well as] an increase in activity on the site at Chorley, there will also be a slight increase in the range of what we do - and a little bit of an increase in complexity as well,” explained consultant anaesthetist Dr. James Wilson.

The new facilities will restore the theatre capacity available at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (LTH) - across both Chorley Hospital and the Royal Preston - almost to its pre-pandemic level.

Four of the Preston site’s day case theatres last year had to be given over to an expanded accident and emergency department, designed to segregate Covid and non-Covid patients in line with strict infection prevention and control measures.

The recovery room being kitted out at the new Chorley Hospital theatre suite

Katie Tierney, LTH’s clinical business manager for theatres and anaesthetics, says that the additional Chorley theatres should do more than just re-establish the trust’s previous day case procedure rate.

“We’re hoping that because these spaces are new, modern and with the technology that we need, that we will actually see an increase in efficiency - and be able to tackle some of that backlog due to Covid,” Ms. Tierney said.

In common with the rest of the NHS, LTH has seen a significant increase in waiting times for so-called “elective” operations. In August - the latest month for which figures have been published - 6,860 patients had waited more than a year for treatment at the trust. Immediately prior to the onset of the pandemic, that figure was zero.

Also in August, only 55 percent of LTH patents started treatment within the expected standard of 18 weeks of being referred by their GP.

Dr. James Wilson, consultant anaesthetist at Chorley Hospital, will have a new way of working as anaesthetics will be given to patients in the actual theatre rooms in the new suite

The new Chorley theatres do not have separate anaesthetic rooms, meaning patients will either go to sleep or receive their spinal infections in the room where they will have their operations, something which Dr. Wilson says will require staff to adapt to a different way of working together. The process will keep “evolving”, he added.

The theatre teams will be familiarising themselves with their new environment during a “simulated theatre list” to test out the facilities on Tuesday - before the first patients are welcomed 24 hours later for breast and orthopaedic surgery. All three of the theatres will be fully utilised by next week.

“The atmosphere down here has been really buoyant,” Katie Tierney said shortly after the official opening.

“The team is really excited to move into this space and they have worked very hard [to create it].”

Staff are getting used to their new working environment in Chorley Hospital's three additional theatres

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