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West Suffolk Hospital plan to move operations to Colchester

Plans have been drawn up to move hundreds of operations away from a hospital to a new unit in a neighbouring county.

Local NHS leaders estimated that 55% of of all orthopaedic procedures at West Suffolk Hospital would be transferred to Colchester Hospital.

The proposals were discussed at a meeting of the local NHS integrated care board (ICB) on Tuesday evening.

NHS bosses say the plans will tackle ballooning waiting lists.

A new facility called the Essex and Suffolk Elective Orthopaedic Centre (ESEOC) is being built at Colchester and is due to be completed in late summer, the meeting heard.

The proposal would relocate roughly up to 1,500 elective orthopaedic surgical procedures each year - mostly knee and hip surgery - away from the hospital in Bury St Edmunds.

All orthopaedic trauma and paediatric surgery would remain at the site, however.

Patients would benefit under the plan because waiting times for operations would be reduced by as much as four weeks, according to papers submitted to the meeting.

Orthopaedic surgery move.  [ 55% Operations likely to be transferred to Colchester from West Suffolk Hospital, including: ] [ 80% Hip surgery ],[  80% Knee surgery ],[ 50% Upper limb surgery ],[ 50% Day case procedures ],[ 40% Shoulder surgery ], Source: Source: NHS Suffolk and North East Essex Integrated Care Board, Image: X-ray of broken arm
Orthopaedic surgery move. [ 55% Operations likely to be transferred to Colchester from West Suffolk Hospital, including: ] [ 80% Hip surgery ],[ 80% Knee surgery ],[ 50% Upper limb surgery ],[ 50% Day case procedures ],[ 40% Shoulder surgery ], Source: Source: NHS Suffolk and North East Essex Integrated Care Board, Image: X-ray of broken arm

The NHS Suffolk and North East Essex ICB said patients would have the choice of whether they wished to be treated at West Suffolk Hospital or in Colchester

Prof William Pope, chair of the ICB, said: "If we get this right, it's a win-win."

Dr Ed Garratt, the ICB chief executive, told the meeting: "The recovery of elective waiting lists is amongst the biggest priorities in this country at the moment.

"From late summer, we will not only have a state of the art elective orthopaedic centre at Colchester, but it is also promising to be the largest in Europe."

Front entrance of West Suffolk Hospital
There are almost 5,000 patients in West Suffolk waiting for elective orthopaedic care

The meeting was told the Covid-19 pandemic had led to unprecedented levels of disruption to elective hospital care across the country, with the waiting list for procedures in England increasing by 61%.

The elective orthopaedic waiting list in west Suffolk currently stands at 4,863 patients.

Andy Yacoub, from Healthwatch Suffolk, which represents patients' interests, expressed concern about the number of people who had mobility problems and might not be able to travel to Colchester.

Recent survey data indicated eight in 10 local people would travel for care but 15% were unable to, he said.

Mr Yacoub said the latter group "are likely to be physically and/or very likely to live in some degree [of] poverty".


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