East Kent Hospitals takes steps to avoid cancelled operations this winter

15 August 2018

Hundreds of patients who would not be able to have their planned orthopaedic operation over the winter, will see their operations go ahead at East Kent Hospitals this winter.

The Trust is increasing the amount of planned orthopaedic operations it will carry out, including hip and knee replacements, as part of an exciting national pilot aimed at improving care for orthopaedic patients.

During the winter months many planned orthopaedic operations often do not go ahead as the NHS prioritises beds to care for the increase in patients needing urgent emergency care.

The pilot is part of the national GIRFT (Getting it Right First Time) programme, led by the National Director for Clinical Quality and Efficiency, Professor Tim Briggs.

Demand for planned orthopaedic inpatient surgery such as hip and knee replacements has increased with 3,000 planned inpatient operations now taking place each year at the William Harvey Hospital, Ashford (WHH) and the Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother Hospital, Margate (QEQM). This has resulted in growing waiting lists, especially during winter.

Professor Tim Briggs says: “Separating emergency care from planned care means that both patients having planned inpatient operations, and those who have suffered a trauma as a result of a fall or accident, are seen, and recover, more quickly. 

“Where these changes have already taken place in other parts of the country, waiting times have reduced, fewer patients have had their operations cancelled and recovery times are quicker.”

East Kent Hospitals Chief Executive Susan Acott said: “This is an exciting opportunity to invest in better facilities and equipment which will help patients be seen more quickly for both planned and emergency care in all our hospitals.

“Evidence shows that dedicated facilities for trauma and separate dedicated facilities for planned orthopaedic inpatient surgery, improve the outcomes and experiences for both sets of patients.

“I welcome the opportunity to the bring improvements seen elsewhere in the country to east Kent as part of this pilot.”

Stage 1 - this winter

The pilot is in two stages. The first stage would see planned hip and knee replacement operations currently undertaken at WHH, taking place at the Kent and Canterbury Hospital, Canterbury (K&C) in time for this winter.  

Planned orthopaedic inpatient operations will take place at K&C using day surgery theatres, supported by dedicated beds and two additional temporary theatres to enable existing day case operations to continue on site.

Spine surgery, day case surgery and trauma will continue at WHH, as will planned shoulder, foot and ankle operations. Day case and inpatient operations would continue at QEQM, using extra capacity in the separate Trust-owned Spencer wing. 

Patients will continue to have all outpatient care before and after their operation at their local hospital, as they do now, which means musculoskeletal services, which handle large volumes of clinic appointments, day surgery, joint injections, imaging and rehabilitation, are unaffected.

This change will also mean the Trust has more beds for medical patients at WHH which would increase flow through the hospital and help reduce waits in A&E.

It will also give the Trust an opportunity to increase theatre capacity for other specialties such as General Surgery and Gynaecology to help reduce the number of people waiting over a year for an operation, and people waiting for cancer treatment.

Stage 2 - next year 

During next year the Trust hopes to put in place the main pilot project which involves building four modular, laminar flow theatres at K&C, supported by dedicated beds. This part of the project requires national capital investment for which funding is being sought.

Subject to funding, this would enable all patients having planned orthopaedic inpatient operations to have their procedures in new and dedicated facilities at K&C by the end of next year. 

All emergency operations (for example fractures sustained in a fall) would continue as now at WHH and QEQM; day cases and outpatient care would continue on all three sites.


Note to editors: The permanent reconfiguration of orthopaedics in east Kent will be the subject of public consultation as part of a wider reconfiguration of services. Additional theatres at K&C will be of benefit under any of the current potential options for the future reconfiguration of hospital services as the theatres can be used for different types of surgery. You can find out more about the potential options for future services here