Eight elective surgical hubs have been awarded accreditation as part of a pilot scheme to ensure the highest standards in clinical and operational practice.
The scheme, run by NHS England’s Getting It Right First Time (GIRFT) programme in collaboration with the Royal College of Surgeons of England, assesses hubs against a framework of standards to help hubs deliver faster access to some of the most common surgical procedures such as cataract surgeries and hip replacements. It also seeks to assure patients about the high standards of clinical care provided by the hubs.
Surgical hubs, which are separated from emergency services, are part of plans nationally to increase capacity for elective care with more dedicated operating theatres and beds. There are currently 89 surgical hubs across England, with 40 more hubs planned to become operational over the next two years with funding from NHS England. In addition to this, 12 hubs are receiving funding to expand their facilities and a number of additional applications for new hubs and expansions are currently being assessed.
The hubs exclusively perform planned surgery and mainly focus on high volume, low complexity (HVLC) surgery across various specialties including ophthalmology, general surgery, orthopaedics, gynaecology, ear nose and throat, and urology. Some hubs are single specialty such as orthopaedic centres, while others provide services across a range of specialty areas. Some hubs also provide more complex surgery including cancer procedures. All bring together the skills and expertise of staff under one roof, with protected facilities and theatres, helping to deliver shorter waits for surgery. The hub beds are designated for patients waiting for planned surgical procedures, and are protected from emergency admissions, reducing the risk of short-notice cancellations.
The GIRFT team recently visited the eight hubs taking part in the pilot for evaluation against key clinical and operational domains:
- The patient pathway
- Staff and training
- Clinical governance and outcomes
- Facilities and ring-fencing
- Utilisation and productivity
Professor Tim Briggs, Chair of GIRFT and NHS England’s National Director for Clinical Improvement and Elective Recovery, was part of the team undertaking the hub assessments.
He said: “We have visited some excellent hub sites and we have been impressed with the professionalism and enthusiasm of the hub teams who are delivering outstanding care. All of the sites we accredited are focused on providing an excellent patient experience and several are setting new standards with regards to day-case surgery and innovative models of care.
GIRFT’s focus is on developing surgical hubs with the aim of improving patient flow so that patients have shorter waits for surgery, will be more likely to be able to go home on the same day, and have a better patient experience.
“We want to provide the assurance for patients and staff that these sites are delivering safe and high-quality care now and will continue to accelerate their progress and productivity in the future.”
The accreditation scheme is a collaboration with the Royal College of Surgeons of England and also supported by the Royal College of Anaesthetists.
Professor Neil Mortensen, President of the Royal College of Surgeons of England said: “It is very good news for patients that the first eight elective surgical hubs have now been awarded accreditation. We feel strongly that the establishment of surgical hubs is key to tackling the backlog of patients waiting for surgery. Surgical hubs will ensure patients’ surgeries can go ahead, even when emergency pressures increase.
“We are pleased to be able to support this scheme, which will help ensure that surgical hubs are meeting the highest standards of patient care, and that good practice is shared across the country. It is also vitally important that training is part of the criteria for accreditation. If our surgical trainees do not have opportunities to train now, we will not have the surgeons we need in the future.
“Congratulations to the hubs that have been awarded accreditation. They are leading the way for others as the scheme is rolled out nationally.”
The eight newly accredited hubs are:
- King George Hospital Elective Surgical Hub – Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust
- Chorley and South Ribble Elective Hub – Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
- Cannock Chase Hospital – The Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust
- Grantham and District Hospital Elective Surgical Hub– United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust
- South West Ambulatory Orthopaedic Centre at the Nightingale Hospital – Royal Devon University Healthcare Foundation Trust
- Sussex Orthopaedic Treatment Centre at Princess Royal Hospital – University Hospitals Sussex NHS Foundation Trust
- Braintree Community Hospital Orthopaedic Hub – Mid and South Essex NHS Foundation Trust
- Huddersfield Royal Infirmary Elective Surgical Unit– Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust
Some of the accredited hubs were set up during the COVID pandemic in order to provide protected facilities for planned surgical care and have now evolved into permanent facilities supporting the recovery of elective services.
Plans are now underway for a national roll-out of the scheme to other hub sites across England. While it is not mandatory for trusts to seek accreditation, the long-term goal is for every elective hub to be accredited.