New surgical hub leads drive to cut NHS waiting lists

By Jo Makosinski | Published: 10-Feb-2023

Government-funded, offsite-constructed facility is one of a new generation of elective operating theatre developments

The first phase of a new elective surgical hub built by MTX using fast-track Modern Methods of Construction (MMC) has opened at Clatterbridge Hospital on the Wirral.

The Cheshire and Merseyside Surgical Centre is one of a new generation of operating theatres developed solely to treat patients awaiting elective or planned surgery to help clear the patient backlog exacerbated by the impact of COVID-19.

The first phase of the centre includes two operating theatres, 12 patient recovery bays, and a plant equipment room containing air handling units and electrical supply panels.

Pre-manufactured steel-framed building sections were craned onto the site alongside existing theatres at Clatterbridge Hospital and assembled by the team from MTX, installing exterior cladding, interior finishes, and floor screeds. 

They then fitted out the theatre complex, including equipping the operating theatres and installing all mechanical, electrical, and plumbing elements, as well as commissioning a plant equipment room containing air handling units and electrical supply panels.

The site sub-structure was prepared while the building sections were being manufactured offsite to precise specifications under factory conditions for greater efficiency, substantially reducing the overall programme and build duration.

MMC can reduce build times by more than 50%, cut waste by up to 60%, and enable faster, more-cost-effective and low-carbon delivery of high-quality buildings that are fully compliant with latest healthcare standards.

Targeted investment

The Cheshire and Merseyside Surgical Centre is one of the first projects financed under the NHS England £700m national funding made available through the Targeted Investment Fund to support schemes that promote recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

It has created a ‘cold site’ capacity, with the new theatres located away from the main busy acute hospital at Arrowe Park to provide enhanced infection prevention and control separate from patients who require treatment for viruses such as COVID-19 or flu.

The new theatre strategy is designed to reduce same-day cancellations of surgery which often result from pressure on bed capacity, avoiding wasting valuable operating time.

Wirral University Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust was allocated £10.6m of funding early in 2022 from NHS England via Cheshire and Merseyside’s Integrated Care System (ICS) to build the two new operating theatres. 

And, in September, further funding of £14.95m was announced to build two further theatres as part of phase two of the project, which will also be delivered by MTX. 

Dr Nikki Stevenson, medical director and deputy chief executive at Wirral University Teaching Hospital, said: “The centre will enable us to treat many more patients, especially when the second phase is complete.

“It will make a huge difference to those across the region who have unfortunately been waiting for surgery and will greatly improve patient experience.”

The benefits of MMC

The second phase of the Cheshire and Merseyside Surgical Centre will consist of two more operating theatres, a further six recovery bays, along with ancillary staff areas and changing facilities for theatre staff, and an upper-storey plant equipment enclosure.  

Theatres three and four are expected to open next year and once both phases are complete the new surgical centre will treat around 6,000 patients a year from across Cheshire and Merseyside.

Groundworks are underway to accept the new building modules currently being constructed offsite. 

Phase 2 is also a single-storey construction carefully designed to wrap round and integrate with the first phase to make the two units a coherent single building.

MTX managing director, David Hartley, said: “Expertise in MMC enables us to quickly and cost effectively deliver high-quality new hospital facilities specifically engineered for medical use with ventilation systems designed to optimise clean air flow and meet clinical needs.

“Our extensive experience of working in busy locations within hospital sites means staff understand the needs of the hospitals and are skilled in optimising progress while minimising impact on existing clinical services and patients.”

Rowan Pritchard-Jones, medical director for NHS Cheshire and Merseyside, added: “The opening of Cheshire and Merseyside Surgical Centre is fantastic news.

“There has been significant investment in these theatres, which are now providing quicker access to surgery and outpatients procedures for thousands of patients – reducing waiting lists, improving patient experience and, most importantly, improving people’s outcomes.”

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