£10.6m for new-build operating theatres at Clatterbridge Hospital

Funding of £10.6 million has been allocated to Wirral University Teaching Hospital (WUTH) to build new surgical theatres to reduce the elective surgery backlog resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The funding from NHS England and Improvement which has been allocated by Cheshire and Merseyside’s Integrated Care System (ICS), will enable the Trust to build two new ‘modular theatres’ at its Clatterbridge Hospital site to treat around 3,000 patients a year.

Elective procedures nationally have been impacted by the COVID-19 situation and also due to winter pressures creating a backlog of patients waiting for treatment. The funds have come from the NHS’ Targeted Investment Fund to clear the backlog of people waiting for elective surgery.

This project aligns with national and regional NHS strategy to have robust plans in place to ensure elective surgery is not affected by hospital pressures.

It will create what is referred to as ‘cold site’ capacity, in that the theatres will be built away from the WUTH main busy acute hospital at Arrowe Park and provide enhanced infections prevention and control, away from patients who require admission for respiratory viruses such as COVID-19 or flu.

The new theatres are aimed at reducing cancellations of surgery on the day, which have resulted from pressures on bed capacity. It will therefore significantly improve patient experience and reduce wasting valuable operating time.

The additional theatres will treat many patients from across the region, including Wirral, who require less complex surgery. It will also reduce the backlog of those patients with less urgent needs, with a focus on patients who have been waiting over 52 weeks for treatment.

Dr David Levy is Regional Medical Director for NHS England-Improvement in the North West and said of the investment; “The pandemic had a disproportionate impact on the North West region. The Targeted Investment Funds are aimed to be precisely applied in areas where we can draw on a large catchment of patients who have been awaiting surgery.

“We want to catch up on delayed procedures as quickly as possible, which will be accelerated if we have additional capacity brought on stream.”

Dr. Nikki Stevenson, Medical Director and Deputy Chief Executive at Wirral University Teaching Hospital, added, “We are delighted to have had this important funding. It will significantly help us to treat many more patients who will, unfortunately, have been waiting for elective surgery. This is part of our commitment to reducing the number of patients waiting for surgery and improving patient experience.

“Throughout the pandemic, we have continued to care for those in need of urgent surgery. However, this is part of our plan to provide treatment as quickly as possible for those less urgent cases.

“This is an innovative project enabling real collaboration between NHS organisations in the region so we can offer treatment for patients not just in Wirral but across the Cheshire and Merseyside community.”

The theatres are ‘modular’ buildings, meaning they are largely pre-built before arriving on site, reducing time. They will be constructed on to the side of the current theatres at Clatterbridge Hospital. The work on the theatres is already underway and they are expected to be up and running in summer 2022.

Graham Urwin, Chief Executive Designate of the Cheshire and Merseyside Integrated Care System (ICS) said, “This is great news for people across Cheshire and Merseyside and shows the commitment of partners in the system to tackling waiting lists and reducing the backlog caused by the Covid pandemic. I really look forward to the new theatres becoming operational and welcoming their first patients for surgery.”

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