Western Isles Health Board yesterday (Thursday) approved to proceed with the development of an enhanced orthopaedic service based locally.
The first step in implementing the new service will be to advertise for two permanent Orthopaedic Consultants, and this will be progressed over the next few weeks. The new service will replace the previous single-handed consultant model in place over previous years.
The two-consultant model has been piloted by NHS Western Isles for a period of six months and the pilot was deemed to be extremely successful. Evaluation of the pilot demonstrated exceptionally high levels of patient satisfaction, with significantly fewer patients having to travel to the mainland for procedures (a reduction of 33%), as an increased number and range of procedures could be carried out locally.
NHS Western Isles Nurse Director/Chief Operating Officer Nigel Hobson explained: "The number of hip and knee replacements performed 'on island' has increased by 60% and the number of minor surgery procedures performed 'on island' has increased by 64%.The pilot also found that, with this model, there was a reduction in the amount of time that patients had to spend in hospital after a procedure and increased time available for additional outpatient clinics. Each patient is now afforded more time for their outpatient clinic consultation and this has led to higher patient satisfaction and is more conductive to providing a high quality patient focused service."
Board Chair Neil Galbraith described the results of the pilot as 'fantastic' and commended the staff involved.
NHS Western Isles had previously run a limited orthopaedic service since 1995, which was provided until the retirement of the single-handed consultant in 2011. For reasons of quality, safety and risk, as well as current employment practices, the Health Board accepted that the previous model was not a sustainable way to provide a modern service to the local population.
Mr Hobson added: "This new service is a highly successful service model. Whilst the enhanced model will cost more than the previous model, I am confident that we will be able to reduce the overall costs and that it is the best option for patients."
Non Executive Director Angus McCormack commented on feedback he'd received from staff on the new service: "Staff are enjoying the variety of work that they are now carrying out," he said. "The nursing staff appear to be very pleased about it."
Non Executive Director Dr Francis Tierney, who is a GP in Benbecula, commented from a clinical point of view. "There has been a transformation in the service and clinical satisfaction is really high," he said. "It's a complete and utter turnaround. What we have experienced is a very upmarket and enthusiastic service."