It seems to be an accepted fact that our National Health Service is perpetually short of money.

It can’t be denied that keeping up with increasing demands, innovative treatments, new drugs, does need ever increasing finance.  But sometimes, it just takes a different approach or alternative management to improve the service provided at little or no cost.

One of the greatest waste of money is cancelled operations.

Our medical negligence team here at Ringrose Law can certainly attest to the problems that delays in treatment cause, with what might have been something simple to treat at an early stage becoming a complex problem further down the line and with worse outcomes.

The Lincolnite, the online newspaper for Lincoln and surrounding areas recently reported a success story in improving cancellation rates, a welcome piece of good news.

Jan Sobieraj, Chief Executive of United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust, was able to report that a pilot project to transform orthopaedic surgery across the county was showing initial good results.  What has happened is that the Trust has been able to separate elective surgery from emergency surgery, as is the model for many of the top performing Trusts.   A survey of public opinion showed that generally, patients said that they would be happy to travel to a centre of excellence for planned operations, as long as they could still have pre- and post-operative care provided locally.

Mr Sobieraj says this is exactly what their new management system provides.  Routine elective surgery is now almost always performed at Grantham, which, in conjunction with doubling the number of day care treatments provided at Louth, allows emergency cases to be better managed at Lincoln, Grantham and Boston. Patients get into theatre sooner and beds in Accident and Emergency are freed up earlier.

Figures were supplied to show that in the first 5 weeks of the pilot, only one operation had to be cancelled.  In the first week, the surgical team at Grantham operated on 36 patients with planned operations, which is over triple the number operated on pre-pilot, which was 11.

The trial still has to be tested over winter, which always leads to an increase in emergency care, especially if we see another dreadful winter as we had this year. This was a significant contributor to the 900 operations which had to be cancelled. But so far the results are encouraging. The aim is to make Grantham an orthopaedic centre of excellence, with investment in theatres and staff.

So, credit where it’s due to United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust and Mr Sobieraj.  If only other Trusts would take the time to have a hard, honest look at what level of services they are providing and ask themselves whether it really is lack of money that is holding them back, or whether a shake –up of how those services are managed might provide the answer to a better service for patients and potentially fewer claims arising out of delays and cancelled treatments.


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