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Is Heatherwood Hospital a model for the future of the NHS?


Pradeep Gill can see very little of the intense activity around him. He is leaning back in a reclining chair inside one of Heatherwood Hospital's operating theatres.

Buzzing around him is the operating team, led by consultant orthopaedic surgeon Jeremy Granville-Chapman.

For the surgeon and his team, this procedure is the very definition of routine. They have carried out more than 1,000 joint operations in the past 10 months.

Heatherwood Hospital, part of the Frimley Health NHS Foundation Trust, is a specialist elective hub where patients can come in for routine but life-changing surgery at a super-charged pace with theatres working at full tilt, six days a week.

It is busy. But it is a good-busy, not the bad-busy we have come to associate with the NHS during this winter crisis.

The site opened in March last year and Frimley's hospital executives are keen to stress the impact it has made.

"As a specialist planned care facility, Heatherwood has been able to perform surgery six days a week with four out of its six state-of-the-art theatres dedicated to orthopaedic procedures," it said in a press release.

"The hospital has also successfully reduced the length of time patients stay in hospital, with 40% of patients safely discharged within 24 hours."

This is the practice the NHS wants to adopt as it battles a record seven-million-strong waiting list.

Heatherwood can do that because the hospital is ring-fenced from acute pressures that affect other hospitals, as one its most senior orthopaedic surgeons, Mr Rakesh Kucheira, explained.

"We have now realised that winter pressures are 12 months not just three months, which means the acute sites are not going to be able to do planned activity that they planned for, so we've got to create more space," he said.

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Source: Sky News, 9 March 2023

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