The RCSE report ‘The Case For Surgical Hubs’, produced alongside the NHS Strategy Unit, illustrates the extensive benefits of surgical hubs and supports the increased utilisation of the hubs across the country. The transformational work of the Q-bital team in developing and establishing a stand-alone surgical hub for St George’s University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust is referenced as a best-practice case study within this report.
As a direct result of the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, St George’s University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust commissioned a surgical hub and appointed Q-bital to conceive and construct the stand-alone facility in the car park of Queen Mary’s Hospital in Roehampton. This project was designed with the ambition to expand capacity and enable surgeons to continue to safely deliver routine procedures and efficiently tackle the backlog in elective care.
Understanding the urgent demand for the facility, Q-bital developed a proposal and bespoke design for the Trust within just 10 days and worked alongside professionals to ensure that the facility would accommodate their needs and expectations as both medical professionals and as human beings. Using Modern Methods of Construction (MMC), Q-bital was able to assemble the facility in under four months, allowing surgeries to be completed in the hub from June 2021.
Facilitating approximately 120 procedures a week, the modular building has four dedicated, high-specification operating rooms, a recovery area, and consulting rooms, as well as additional space for staff facilities and utility areas. Once the hub opens to support operations all 7 days of the week, it is expected that it will be able to deliver 10,000 surgical procedures per year to patients from Trusts across south west London.
The hub in Roehampton focuses on high volume, low complexity, day procedures and provides the capacity for patients to be supported before their conditions worsen and they require more intense, demanding surgery that would otherwise worsen the burden on the NHS. This typically includes supporting patients in need of plastic surgery, hip or knee replacements, gallbladder removals, as well as diagnostic urology procedures.
Crucial to its success in supporting the NHS, the stand-alone nature of the hub allowed the main hospital building to continue functioning during the construction phase and significantly reduced the risk of COVID-19 infection due to the separation of the facility from the acute care practice. The creation of the surgical hub also worked to reduce competition for operating rooms thus creating availability for more complex, high-risk procedures to be performed at other sites across the region.
Beyond providing capacity for much-needed surgical procedures, the hub also serves as a space to train those who suffered losses of education during the pandemic, helping to support the wider NHS workforce in the aftermath of the pandemic.
The modular nature of surgical facilities – such as that in Roehampton – prioritise flexibility, meaning the hub can respond to changing demands and local need. This enables surgical hubs to be relocated and concentrated in certain parts of the country where demand is greatest, further supporting the Government’s mission to reduce regional inequalities in health outcomes and ‘level up’ healthcare.
Demonstrating the effectiveness of innovative MMC in producing high-quality results at pace, surgical hubs offer a scalable and efficient solution to reducing the backlog in elective care. As the Government continue to recognise the importance of expanding capacity to tackle this backlog, it is critical that the Government listen to the calls of healthcare professionals and bodies such as the RCSE, to properly utilise surgical hubs as a primary component of this solution.