Minister endorses PACU plan for post op surgery care

Date published: 05 July 2022

Health Minister Robin Swann has welcomed and endorsed plans to provide Post Anaesthetic Care Units (PACU) across Northern Ireland hospitals.

Minister Robin Swann

The proposal was included in the Review of General Surgery published by the Department of Health last week.

The initiative will enable many surgical patients to receive high-level post-operative in-patient care even when critical care units are at or above capacity. PACU beds will be ring-fenced for elective care surgical patients. They should help reduce the numbers of operations being postponed during periods when demand for critical care beds is higher.

The Health Minister stated: “A PACU service is currently being piloted in Belfast City Hospital. It will be rolled out across all Trusts on a phased basis, with the aim of providing a total of 21 beds province wide within the next two years.

“I very much welcome these plans. As I stated last week, the Review of General Surgery offers a new future for surgery.”

PACUs are an intermediate level of care where a higher degree of observation, monitoring and interventions can be provided for patients than in a general ward.

PACU is a time limited intervention, with the expectation that the majority of patients will be discharged from a PACU facility within 12-24 hours, with a small number staying for a maximum of 48-72 hours.

PACU can be used for post op care in all surgical specialties and not just general surgery.

As well improving the quality of care and safety of high-risk surgical patients, the development of PACU will also release critical care capacity previously used to support initial postoperative care for high-risk patients. This means that there will be increased protection of surgical capacity during times of increased critical care activity, such as during emergency surges or winter pressures. In addition, it will reduce ‘last minute’ cancellation of inpatient surgery. This will provide better outcomes for individual patients and for services as a whole.

Notes to editors: 

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