Publish date: 24 September 2020

Northumbria carries out more than 2,000 operations since restart

More than 2,000 people have been able to have their planned operations in hospitals in Northumberland and North Tyneside over the last few months.

The trust is currently among the top performers in England in relation to ‘referral to treatment’ performance. This is based on the number of patients that have their treatment within 18 weeks of referral.

Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust safely restarted its planned surgery as soon as it could in May with strict measures in place to ensure the safety of patients and staff to prevent people from having to wait any longer.

Like hospitals across the country, Northumbria Healthcare postponed non-urgent operations in March due to Covid-19 however was keen to get back on track at the earliest opportunity.

Since restrictions on hospitals were eased, the trust has carried out a range of what are referred to as ‘elective’ procedures in a range of areas including orthopaedics, such as hip and knee replacements, and general and gynaecological surgery.

Grandmother Maureen Oliver is one patient to be operated on in the last few months, within weeks of seeing a consultant for the first time at the end of July. She had been struggling with pain in her hip for more than a year and had a total hip replacement at Hexham General Hospital.

Maureen, 69, said: “With everything that has been going on with Covid, I didn’t have any expectations of when I’d be able to have my operation so it’s absolutely marvellous that I was able to have it so quickly.

“I’m really impressed that Northumbria Healthcare has got things back up and running as quickly as they have – I know people in other parts of the country who have been waiting for a very long time with no prospect of getting a date.

“I’m extremely grateful for what I’ve had done and I felt safe all the time I was in hospital. I urge people to attend planned appointments and treatments, there is no need to delay.

This year and during lockdown the problems with her hip had got so bad for Maureen, from Wylam, that she could barely walk.

Now pain-free, she’s hoping to get back to walking and swimming and regaining a much higher quality of life.

“I’m thrilled to bits being pain-free,” she said, “and really looking forward to going outside and having a proper walk.”

Safely carrying out planned operations again was a priority for the trust as James Golding, consultant anaesthetist and deputy business unit director of surgery at Northumbria Healthcare explains.

He said: “While postponing our elective operations was a necessary part of our well-planned response to the coronavirus pandemic, restarting them as soon as we could was a key component of our recovery and getting our hospitals functioning as near as normal as possible.

“Even though these operations are not classed as ‘urgent’ they are extremely important to patients and – as Maureen’s experiences show – can really make a difference to how someone can live their life.

“A lot of work has gone into making this happen and there are, of course, extra measures we have to take to make sure everyone is safe, but it’s extremely important for our trust to be able to do this in order to provide the best care and outcomes for our patients.

“I urge anyone with a planned hospital appointment or treatment to please attend and don’t delay. Feedback we are getting from patients, like Maureen, is that they feel very safe while in hospital.”

Alongside postponing planned operations at the height of the coronavirus pandemic, the trust could not hold outpatient clinics as normal and embraced technology to hold these virtually and over the telephone.

Since the beginning of March, more than 67,000 non-face-to-face appointments have been held, saving patients travelling less than 1.1million miles than they did in the same period two years ago.