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Health chiefs plan three new operating theatres to reduce waiting times

05 Dec 2023 3 minute read
Singleton Hospital. Image: NHS Wales

Richard Youle Local Democracy Reporter

Health chiefs are to request almost £23 million from the Welsh Government to fund three new operating theatres and help bring down patient waiting times.

Swansea Bay Health University Board are hoping to fund modular theatres which would be assembled off-site and then incorporated in a new two-storey building at Singleton Hospital, along with recovery beds and support space.

Business case approved

Surgeons would mainly carry out minor gynaecology operations at the theatres – all planned rather than unscheduled emergency cases.

Swansea Bay University Health Board members had been briefed on the proposals for a while, and have now approved a business case for submission to ministers.

The health board is asking for £22.8 million capital funding and annual revenue funding of £13.1 million to staff the theatres. The aim is for construction work to start next April prior to operations getting under way in 2025.

Introducing the report at a health board meeting, Chief Operating Officer Deb Lewis said the new theatres would take away many operations from the city’s larger Morriston Hospital.

She added: “It gives us the additional capacity that we need to eat into the backlog that we’ve still got.”

It is all part of a larger programme of work for Morriston to be a specialised site for emergency care, complex and complex surgery. Singleton Hospital is to focus on planned healthcare, women’s health, cancer care and diagnostic tests, while Neath Port Talbot Hospital, which has three new modular theatres of its own, concentrates on orthopaedic and spinal care, day surgery and rehabilitation.

A report before the board said the new Singleton theatres would provide capacity for 3,115 cases per year based on 50 weeks of two operating sessions per day. The new development would also include an outpatient gynaecology suite, and allow breast operating capacity to move out of Neath Port Talbot Hospital.

Extra capacity

Board members asked if 50 weeks of annual operations were “doable”, whether recruitment forecasts for theatre staff were optimistic, and whether demand for operations would remain high in the future.

Mrs Lewis said 50 weeks of operations was feasible, and that having the extra capacity would allow Singleton Hospital to potentially take on regional cases should future demand within Swansea Bay reduce.

The report said the £13.1 million needed annually to staff the theatres didn’t allow for any “premium costs in the event of recruitment gaps”. The health board will undertake a recruitment and staff training campaign campaign to ensure workforce requirements were met.

Recruiting anaesthetists in particular has been a challenge at the three new Neath Port Talbot Hospital orthopaedic theatres.

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