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Spire Norwich is the main private healthcare provider in the Norfolk area. There are three NHS acute hospitals across the region but their locations, and the rural nature of the county, means distance can be a factor for people choosing where to have their procedures with many patients opting to pursue an independently funded option.
Even before the pandemic the hospital, due to high demand for its services, had experienced capacity constraints. The hospital was operating at weekends, often six days a week. However, as a private provider, Spire wanted to be able to offer as much choice in terms of days and times for procedures. It was clear as the pandemic emerged and its impact on health services became clear that future demand for the services at Spire Norwich was going to remain high and ultimately increase.
The hospital wanted a solution which would increase its capacity to carry out a range of procedures which could be conceptualised, delivered and commissioned in as short a time as possible.
Spire Norwich had three existing operating theatres and wanted to install a fourth as efficiently as possible. The organisation was already working in partnership with Vanguard Healthcare Solutions at Spire Liverpool and knew that its mobile and modular solutions had been effective in adding capacity, in a quality environment. for colleagues.
Spire Norwich and Vanguard began talking about what options were available to create additional capacity at the hospital in November 2020. Installation began in February 2021 and the theatre went live in April 2021, a total of five months from concept to operational activity.
With time and space pressures, the team at Vanguard worked closely with Spire Norwich and their estates, clinical and management teams to create a bespoke modular solution to meet their specific needs. Vanguard installed a mobile laminar flow theatre which could be used to perform a range of procedures and a bespoke storage area with purpose-built corridor connecting to the existing building.
The new theatre’s location was important as it had to be close to existing clinical support to ensure optimal safety. To get it into position, a 52m crane was necessary to lever it into place because of the challenging topography of the site.
The theatre represents an annual investment of £1.4m for Spire Norwich. It treats around 30 patients plus a week and is used for a range of different disciplines and day surgery procedures including ophthalmology, orthopaedic and gastroenterology procedures. It has also been used for breast cancer cases. It has expanded the hospital’s capacity to swiftly treat privately funded patients whose procedures had to be postponed by the pandemic.
Spire Norwich has treated more than 20,000 local patients during the course of the pandemic who would otherwise have had their treatment or diagnosis delayed, and the theatre will also be used to care for NHS patients, helping to reduce waiting times and the size of the overall waiting list.
Nayab Haider, Hospital Director at Spire Norwich, said: “We are absolutely delighted with the outcomes we have been able to achieve as a result of this partnership with Vanguard. We have been able to provide essential procedures for around 130 additional people a month and for a hospital of our size, that is quite significant.
“In Norfolk we have an older and aging demographic profile, and there are many rural communities, so it is not always easy for people to access the NHS acute hospitals. They also face longer waiting times as the pressure the NHS is under in trying to address the backlog caused by the pandemic.
“Some people will consider what is more important, a holiday or health, and more are choosing health. Thanks to this theatre, we are able to provide a top quality choice for them to opt to have their procedure privately. That in itself frees up capacity within the NHS.
“Working with Vanguard has been a real collaborative process and all of our team from Ward Manager to Nurses, the theatre team and others were involved in making sure the theatre met their clinical needs.
“We have had superb support at every stage; from Maxine Lawson our Account Manager who was instrumental in making sure everything went smoothly to Scott Horsley who supported our clinical team. That has been on-going support too. It has been such a successful partnership we are now looking at our next project; this theatre was to be in place for a year but we would be keen to extend. We are looking to expand the theatre so we have more floor space and can carry out more complex work.
“That is the benefit of choosing a solution such as this; it’s flexible and the Vanguard team always work with us to make sure the solution they provide is best meeting our – and ultimately – the patient’s needs.”