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Vanguard can help tackle the lack of access to operating theatres, identified by the RCS

2 February, 2024
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The RCS Surgical Workforce Census 2023 shows that problems accessing operating theatres are contributing to long waiting times for hospital treatment across the UK

The RCS Surgical Workforce Census 2023 sheds light on the challenges faced by surgical departments within the UK. With increasing demand for surgical services and the need for enhanced efficiency, the healthcare sector is at a pivotal juncture.

The President of the Royal College of Surgeons of England (RCS England) has said that problems accessing operating theatres are contributing to long waiting times for hospital treatment across the UK. The census conducted by RCS England found more than half (56%) of the UK surgical workforce find that operating theatre access is a major challenge. Worryingly, that figure rises to 61% for all surgical trainees, meaning they are missing valuable training time.

The main findings include:
  • 56% of respondents cited that access to theatres was a major challenge and this was specifically cited by 61% of all surgical trainees.
  • 52% of all surgical trainees reported a lack of adequate time for training.
  • 50% of respondents across all career grades indicated that they have considered leaving the workforce in the past year.
  • 61% of respondents cited that burnout and stress is the main challenge in surgery - due to excessive workloads.
  • 64% of the 55-64 age group of consultant surgeons plan to retire in the next four years.
"“At a time when record waiting lists persist across the UK, it is deeply concerning that NHS productivity has decreased. The reasons for this are multifactorial, but access to operating theatres and staff wellbeing certainly play a major part. If surgical teams cannot get into operating theatres, patients will continue to endure unacceptably long waits for surgery."
Mr Tim Mitchell, President of the Royal College of Surgeons of England
“There is an urgent need to increase theatre capacity and ensure existing theatre spaces are used to maximum capacity. There is also a lot of work to be done to retain staff at all levels by reducing burnout and improving morale. RCS England stands ready to work with NHS trust organisations and health boards to develop policies and guidance that improve staff wellbeing."
Mr Tim Mitchell, President of the Royal College of Surgeons of England

How can Vanguard help?

Several recommendations have been made by the RCS, with focus on increasing productivity to reduce waiting lists, ensuring a sustainable surgical workforce, and alleviating the pressures on staff.

Increasing theatre capacity

There is an urgent need for theatre capacity to be increased by ensuring existing theatre spaces are used to their maximum capacity. When theatres require scheduled or urgent refurbishment, Vanguard can provide alternative capacity, with a mobile facility up and running within weeks or a modular theatre complex within months.

The RCS highlights the need to increase the number of surgical hubs and for ring-fencing of beds for elective surgery. As well as providing the means with which to reduce waiting lists, a surgical hub is also a great environment for training.

Read our case study about how Vanguard worked with South Warwickshire University NHS Foundation Trust to install a mobile theatre, creating a surgical hub and reducing waiting times locally and for patients of nearby Trusts. For an example of how effective a modular build surgical hub can be, read about Vanguard's four-theatre complex at Queen Mary’s Hospital in Roehampton, which includes high specification operating theatres, a recovery ward, consulting rooms, staff facilities and utility areas.

Ensuring a sustainable surgical workforce and alleviating the pressures on staff

Overworked surgical teams face burnout, affecting both their well-being and the quality of patient care. The census highlights the need for solutions that alleviate the pressure on existing surgical staff, promoting a healthier and more sustainable work environment.

Vanguard Healthcare Solutions helps address these issues by providing facilities with working environments and rest areas surgical teams deserve. Adding a bespoke modular build to a mobile theatre allows a Trust's unique needs to be met within a short time frame. By working with Vanguard to provide an environment conducive to training, Trusts improve their productivity and attract staff, as well as helping to provide a solution to nationwide problems.

Interested in finding out more about how Vanguard can help you in addressing the challenges highlighted in the census? Get in touch with us at [email protected]

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