Radical plans to transform day surgery across Northern Ireland are being accelerated by the Department of Health

Date published: 21 March 2019

Last October, day case surgery hubs – elective care centres – were announced for cataract and varicose vein procedures. These prototype centres have been operational since December 2018 and form part of a long-term plan to reduce waiting lists.

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Now the same approach is to be rolled out across a wide range of specialities, meaning the provision of thousands of day case routine operations will be transferred to dedicated sites.

The specialities involved are General Surgery and Endoscopy, Urology, Gynaecology, Orthopaedics, ENT, Paediatrics and Neurology.

Newly established groups will take plans forward in each speciality, including identifying preferred sites for the centres.

This work will help inform a regional model for day case surgery across Northern Ireland. It is envisaged this model will be the subject of a public consultation before the end of 2019.

By December 2020, the Department aims to transfer more than 100,000 day cases, 25,000 endoscopies and 8,000 paediatric procedures to the new model.

DoH Permanent Secretary Richard Pengelly said: “Dedicated elective care centres are a priority and a key part of tackling hospital waiting times.

“All too often at present, routine surgery has to be postponed because hospital theatres are needed for urgent and emergency cases.

“By creating day surgery hubs on standalone sites away from 24 hour Emergency Departments, we can make our system more productive for the benefit of patients.

“A key issue will be the location of the centres. This will inevitably mean that some people will have to travel a bit further for their day surgery, but we will achieve significant and sustainable reductions in the waiting times for the procedures. Previous work suggests service users accept this trade off."

The planning groups for each of the specialities will include clinicians and representatives from HSC organisations.

Evaluations from the prototype cataract and varicose vein centres will help inform the work.

Notes to editors: 

1. The prototypes for varicose veins are based at Lagan Valley Hospital and Omagh Hospital and Primary Care Complex; while those for cataracts operate from three locations - Mid-Ulster Hospital, Downe Hospital, and South Tyrone Hospital.

2. The Department of Health/NISRA 2017 Health Survey indicated that 78% of those surveyed would be prepared to travel beyond the nearest acute hospital if treatment was available in a more timely manner. 82% of people surveyed thought that a journey time of up to one hour would be reasonable.

3. The elective care centre model was a key part of the Elective Care Strategy, agreed and published by the then Health Minister in February 2017. It is firmly in line with the transformation vision for health and social care set out in the Delivering Together document published in October 2016 and agreed by the Northern Ireland Executive.

4. For media queries please contact the Department of Health Press Office team on 028 9052 0575 or email pressoffice@health-ni.gov.uk. For out of hours please contact the Duty Press Officer on 028 9037 8110 and your call will be returned.

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