Hip and knee patients go back to school

Swithun Price demonstrates the sock aid
Swithun Price demonstrates the sock aid at joint school at QEQM

Published on 16 August 2019

It may be the summer holidays, but patients at East Kent Hospitals have been back at school – joint school, that is.

The scheme is for anyone on the waiting list for a hip or knee replacement and takes place at Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother Hospital in Margate and William Harvey Hospital in Ashford.

Led by specialist orthopaedic nurses and therapy staff, ‘pupils’ attend a 90-minute session to learn all they need to know to prepare for their operation.

Swithun Price, who co-ordinates joint school at QEQM, said the group sessions also allowed patients to ask questions and discuss any concerns with people in the same situation.

He said: “No two classes are the same, because each patient has their own story and situation.

“We have had some who turn up on bicycles, while others arrive in their mobility scooters.

“I try to have fun with them, partly to relieve their nerves but also so they feel comfortable asking a question or raising a concern – we’re happy to answer absolutely anything.”

The students even have homework to complete – questionnaires about their home set-up to help staff work out what support and equipment they will need, and exercises to practise before they come to hospital.

Around 1,000 people a year attend joint school at each site, and staff find it helps patients recover faster and feel less anxious because they know what to expect. They learn about anaesthetics, pain management, what will happen on the day of their operation and afterwards, and what to expect when they go home.

Examples of the artificial joints are also passed around, and the team, including Ward Manager Pat Johnson and assistant therapy practitioner Maxine Chapman, give tips about what to wear and how the different hospital staff can help them.

For patients who need a little extra reassurance, Swithun has a trick up his sleeve (or trouser leg!): he has had a total knee replacement.

He said: “I don’t always share that because it’s not about me, but if someone is feeling very worried, or wondering what they will be able to do after the operation, it can help to be able to say ‘look at me, I’ve been through it’.

“It also means they believe me when I say preparation is key and doing the exercises will really make a difference.”

The team also launched an app last summer to help patients prepare for and recover from hip and knee replacement surgery, and it has already been downloaded 1,000 times.

The Trust was the first in the UK to launch the app for its patients, and it provides bite-sized education and guidance at each point on someone’s journey, from pre-operation to recovery. Information is available via video, maps and websites and it will remind patients of daily targets such as completing their physiotherapy exercises.

For more information on the app, search East Kent Hospitals Trust Patient Journey in your app store.