Patients needing urgent surgery are being treated under a new safe service set up rapidly in response to the pandemic by a partnership with the NHS in Torbay and South Devon.
More than 1,000 operations vital to NHS patients with cancer and other conditions have been carried out on a COVID-19-free site in four months under the enhanced partnership between Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust and Ramsay Health.
As the pandemic struck and Torbay Hospital adapted to take COVID-19 patients, Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the hospital, transferred patients and planned surgery within days to the designated COVID-19-free Mount Stuart Hospital in Torquay.
Emma Brooks, Operational Manager at Mount Stuart for the Trust, relocated at the start of the pandemic to take up the new role. She was joined by about 40 Trust colleagues from 30 locations and a huge range of roles (from IT to surgical) in order to transfer urgent surgery speedily and reduce delay to vulnerable patients.
She said “I am incredibly proud of what we have achieved, the teams worked hard to ensure that pathways were in place for the safe transfer of patient care.
“The joint working between the two sites has been fantastic and staff from the Trust have been made to feel extremely welcome. It has been an absolute pleasure to be a part of this partnership and be able to provide urgent care for our local population.”
This major move, including equipment and staff, has helped mitigate the impact on patients from the pandemic by reducing waiting lists while ensuring that surgery remains safe.
Patient Charles Sloan 33, a registered mental health nurse from Newton Abbot, has undergone a successful hernia operation, despite initial concern.
He said: “I want to express my heartfelt gratitude to your entire team when I had my hernia surgery at Mount Stuart hospital.
“I was very nervous coming into hospital in the middle of the pandemic, however I was reassured Mount Stuart was a COVID-19- free zone and all patients were tested prior to admission. Staff made me feel really welcome and put my mind at ease immediately. The whole team looked after me well and nothing was too much trouble. The whole team is a credit to the hospital.”
The huge logistical task of transferring surgery included moving the entire breast cancer surgical pathway to Mount Stuart Hospital in three days. This was complex involving coordinating multiple departments while ensuring patients had a smooth seamless experience. Several van-loads of new IT were also moved in, tested and set up.
The Trust and Ramsay Health Care have a long partnership, but this relationship has reached a new level of unity as Mount Stuart Hospital supports the NHS in tackling COVID-19 since the beginning of the new NHS contract, to deliver diagnostic, urgent and cancer surgical services. Between 30 March and 24 July Mount Stuart has completed 1,057 theatre procedures, 3,015 outpatient attendances and 1,384 diagnostic scans.
Jeanette Mercer, Hospital Director at Mount Stuart Hospital said: “I am immensely proud of what has been achieved; our teams have embraced new ways of working to ensure patients receive the right care at the right time via skilled staff.
“The pandemic has created delays for patients, but staff quickly moved from Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust to Mount Stuart Hospital, working incredibly hard alongside our own teams to maintain services, which if further delayed could be detrimental to the patients’ health.
“Mount Stuart Hospital and TSDFT have a long-standing partnership and this unified approach is even more important as we stand together as one team to face the challenges ahead.”
A key part of the work is ensuring NHS patients referred to Mount Stuart Hospital continue to receive care in a safe environment with people needing surgery able to have it in a completely separate COVID-19-free setting.
One such safety measure is the setting up of a drive-through COVID-19 test centre at Mount Stuart for urgent planned surgical patients to be swabbed to check if they are safe to proceed with surgery. Testing is in common with all NHS hospitals.
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