Operations delayed after inspection shuts down two operating theatres

Patients have had operations postponed due to the sudden closure of operating theatres at a Devon hospital

Two of the 10 theatres at Torbay Hospital were closed after an inspection revealed concerns about the reliability of the air handling units.

The hospital aims to have at least one of the theatres open with a new air handling unit by May.

A statement from John Harrison, Interim Chief Operating Officer, at Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust said a fan failed at a third theatre, but that was due to be repaired by the end of last week.

Mr Harrison said: “Closing these theatres at almost no notice inevitably means that we are having to postpone surgery for some patients.

“We are contacting everyone whose operations need to be rescheduled; and where possible, we are offering alternative dates.

“We are prioritising people in the greatest clinical need and those who have already been waiting a long time for their surgery.

“This does mean that some people who have already waited a long time for their routine surgery will now face even longer waits.

“We know that behind every number on our waiting list is a person whose life may be affected, and we are sorry for the continued discomfort, pain or lack of mobility they may be experiencing.

“We want to be able to offer people dates for their surgery as soon as possible, but it is going to be several months before we are running at anywhere near full capacity.

“In the meantime, we are working on a range of actions to increase theatre capacity, including extending day case lists, offering people the choice to have their surgery elsewhere, and using our own theatres at evenings and weekends.

“These measures are being introduced between now and the beginning of January.

“We also plan to re-open at least one theatre, with a new air handling unit, by May.

“In the longer-term, we are investigating options to bring a modular theatre unit and bringing forward plans to replace our ageing theatres.

“On behalf of the Trust, I apologise to anyone affected by this situation – it is not what any of us would want. I would like to assure you that we are doing all we can to restore services as quickly as possible.”

Mr Harrison said that before the closures, the trust had been “making progress this year with reducing our waiting times for planned surgery.”

Figures from NHS England show that 96 non-urgent operations, such as hip or knee procedures, were cancelled by the trust at the last minute in the three months to September. This was an increase of 35% from the same period in 2017, when there were 71.

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