‘Theatres Improvement Project’ sees 19,000 more people receive operations in Cheshire and Merseyside in the last 12 months

The number of people accessing operations in Cheshire and Merseyside is up by 7% - with 19,000 more patients being operated on compared to the previous 12 months.

This means that participating Cheshire and Merseyside hospitals are now amongst the top 25% nationally when it comes to ‘theatre utilisation’, with three local hospitals (East Cheshire Trust, Liverpool Women’s and Liverpool Heart & Chest) now in the top 10 nationally.

During the COVID pandemic, many local hospitals had to reduce the number of patients being operated on due to social distancing, and infection, prevention and control requirements. 

Since these restrictions have been removed, it has been challenging to return to the number of operations that were being carried out pre-pandemic.  This has been due to workforce issues, a shortage of hospital beds, booking and scheduling challenges.

To address the problem Cheshire & Merseyside’s Elective Recovery and Transformation Programme launched a “theatres improvement project,” working with local hospitals to increase the number of operations being carried out.

Nationally, a target of 85% ‘theatre utilisation’ has been set to drive up the number of operations being carried out. This target includes measures to capture the time spent giving clinical care, such as administering anesthetic and undertaking surgical procedures. 

The target is set below 100% to allow for changeovers between operations, cleaning procedures and unavoidable cancellations (for example due to patient illness on the day of operation).

Cheshire and Merseyside’s Theatres Improvement Project has developed a dashboard and tools to support participating hospitals to maximize the number of operations being carried out.

Each hospital continues to use these resources to reduce “theatre downtime” where it is safe to do so, improve booking and scheduling procedures and increasing the number of operations being carried out.

Dr Sinead Clarke, Associate Medical Director for System Quality and Improvement, Cheshire and Merseyside Integrated Care System, said;

“This project has been instrumental in providing quicker access to surgical procedures for thousands of patients in Cheshire and Merseyside – improving theatre utilisation through better booking and scheduling of operations, which in turn is reducing waiting lists, and, most importantly, improving people’s outcomes.”

Dr Michael Gregory is regional medical director for NHS England North West and said: 

“NHS staff are working extremely hard to deliver the Elective Recovery Plan, applying the same determination displayed throughout the pandemic to address backlogs in routine care and reduce long waits.  The Theatre Improvement Project in Cheshire and Merseyside provides a new way of working, as well as additional capacity, which will mean that we can continue to make progress with bringing down waiting times.”