A new ‘planned care’ hospital dedicated to non-emergency treatment is due to open in Berkshire today, as the NHS continues its efforts to address COVID-19 backlogs.
Heatherwood Hospital in Ascot, part of Frimley Health NHS Foundation Trust, will focus on cutting waits for routine care with staff prioritising patients who have been waiting longest, including for orthopaedic and ophthalmology services.
The hospital houses six operating theatres, 48 inpatient beds and 22 day-case cubicles and provides surgical, diagnostic and outpatient care, and will treat patients across Berkshire, Hampshire and Surrey.
There will also be a range of outpatient services under the same roof including gynaecology, urology and cardiology services. These will be supported by services offering patients endoscopy, physiotherapy, phlebotomy and radiology checks and treatments.
The elective recovery plan, published in February, set out a blueprint to address backlogs built up during the pandemic and aims to increase capacity over the next three years to deliver around 17 million diagnostic tests.
From one stop shops for lifesaving checks and new surgical hubs across the country to protect non-urgent care during the pandemic – local NHS trusts are pulling out the stops to boost capacity to carry out as many routine tests, checks and treatment as possible.
The new hospital follows other new community initiatives helping to tackle the backlog and get life-saving health checks to thousands of patients, including one stop diagnostic centres, same day hip replacements and mobile CT and MRI scanners.
Amanda Pritchard, NHS Chief Executive said: “This fantastic new facility shows how the NHS is adapting and changing to meet current demands – putting in practice what we learnt about planned care during the pandemic.
“While new dedicated surgical hubs have been made available across the country to help protect non-urgent care, this hospital is the first purpose built facility aimed at tackling backlogs and getting quicker checks and treatments for patients who need routine care.”
Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid said: “This brand-new hospital will be the first of its kind on our road to recovery and reform, putting patients in need of non-urgent care first and helping them to get the checks and treatments they need.
“We are delivering on our promise to tackle the COVID backlogs by ramping up routine surgery and providing quicker diagnoses – alongside other initiatives which include new surgical hubs and Community Diagnostic Centres, helping us to deliver 9 million more treatments, scans and operations by 2024.”
NHS national medical director, Professor Stephen Powis said: “We continue to pull out all the stops to address COVID-19 backlogs in routine care that have inevitably built up, and this new hospital in Berkshire is a brilliant example of what we are doing to reduce long waits.
“While seasonal pressures and COVID cases continue, we are determined to make the best possible use of the additional recovery investment and ‘one stop shops’, one day hip replacements, and mobile CT and MRI scanners are just a snapshot of the initiatives our teams are driving forward to accelerate vital treatments, tests and checks for patients.
“As we have said throughout the pandemic, it is so important that anyone who needs healthcare continues to come forward for NHS help and support.”
Neil Dardis, Chief Executive, Frimley Health NHS Foundation Trust, said: “This will be one of the best planned care hospitals in the NHS, using technology and innovation to provide the best treatments and experience for our patients.
“The entire building has been designed to provide easy, efficient and excellent care and help to reduce waiting times for patients needing planned procedures.
“Heatherwood Hospital is incredibly important to our community, and I’m so pleased for our teams to be working in such a fantastic facility that will greatly improve care for our patients.”
Hospitals have treated more than 600,000 patients with the virus, including over 100,000 who have been admitted so far during the Omicron wave, all while NHS staff and volunteers have continued to pull out all the stops to deliver more than 118 million vaccine doses, including more than 32 million boosters, in the biggest and most successful vaccination programme in health service history.