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Health / Plenty of positives from mobile operating theatre as more than 330 people undergo procedures

Photo: NHS Shetland

MORE than 330 people had surgery in the mobile operating theatre which was stationed outside the Gilbert Bain Hospital earlier this year – a figure that has been described as “extremely impressive”.

NHS Shetland director of nursing and acute services Kathleen Carolan said the numbers – achieved in three months – were to be celebrated considering the winter pressures and the prevalence of Covid in the community at the time.

It is the equivalent workload for orthopaedic procedures and cataract treatments that would be completed in 12 months.

Learning from the project will also see travelling eye care specialists able to treat more patients per visit on a permanent basis.

The Scottish Government backed project, aimed to tackle a backlog of procedures stemming from the Covid pandemic, also received positive feedback from patients.

It reduced the number of trips to the mainland people would have had to make for their operation.

And a meeting of the NHS Shetland board on Thursday heard there has been a morale boost to local employees who collaborated with visiting specialist staff.

Acting chief nurse Amanda McDermott said it has given the local team a “massive amount of pride”.

Following the mobile unit project, which also saw 14 Orkney patients head north for operations, there are also talks over potentially providing more capacity in the north of Scotland for certain procedures.

Services in the mobile unit included cataract and ear, nose and throat [ENT] surgery, while it also allowed joint replacement procedures such as knee and hip operations to be carried out in Shetland for the first time.

NHS Shetland chief executive Michael Dickson said: “There are discussions about how we can leverage a similar programme across the north of Scotland.”

He said the Gilbert Bain Hospital in Lerwick is ageing and discussions are also touching on how health services can use space differently.

“I think this project has given the north the confidence to ask about how we work differently,” Carolan added.

“It means we are now starting to think regionally.”

Carolan added that while finance was not a primary aim of the project it saved around £50,000 in patient travel.

The Scottish Government allocated around £2.3 million for the programme in total.

There were 146 responses to a patient feedback survey and 135 said their experience was excellent, four said good and seven people did not respond.

Dickson said this was “phenomenal” feedback. “It’s not just overwhelmingly positive, it would say it’s universally positive.”

Videos of patient feedback interviews were played to members of the NHS Shetland board, with folk full of praise.

Meanwhile Carolan also said the visiting staff commented on the professionalism of the local employees involved in the service delivery.