Reducing the time patients wait for surgery and helping to reduce the elective operation backlog caused by the Covid-19 pandemic are the aims of the new Vanguard Theatre at Wharfedale Hospital.

The theatre creates additional operating theatre capacity away from Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust’s main acute hospital sites to increase the number of patients that can be treated each week.

The theatre is part of plans to develop long-term services at Wharfedale Hospital and help the Trust continue to reduce its waiting lists for patients needing a planned operation. Having a dedicated Elective Care Hub away from the major hospital sites in Leeds means there is the capacity which can confidently be used all year round.

It is in use five days a week and is completely connected to the main hospital building by a corridor. It’s being used for procedures across a mixture of specialities – urology, plastics, maxillofacial, colorectal, breast and vascular.

Helen Odedra, a Matron, said: “The theatre took a fair amount of planning but it is really good and has proved to be an excellent way of supporting the installation of our new theatres which are going to be built.

“We can do most of the procedures that would normally be carried out in our theatres upstairs down in the Vanguard. It’s an excellent clinical space. Clinicians have given really positive feedback about working on the unit.

“Patients have also been pleasantly surprised. They haven’t noticed any difference to if they were having their procedure in one of our existing theatres. As far as they’re aware, it’s just an operating theatre. They’re getting the same treatment as they would upstairs – it’s not different for them.”

Sheila Croft, aged 73 and from Micklefield, near Garforth. She had a follow-on plastic surgery operation after a previous carcinoma removal on her face. She said: “It’s just like a normal theatre, it’s bright, new and wonderful. It doesn’t feel any different than any other operating theatre and staff work together really efficiently. Staff keep you calm and are reassuring. One held my hand and talked to me, and it was nice to have the radio playing too. The team work together really well.”

Separate to the mobile theatre, there is a proposed £10m investment in a permanent Elective Care Hub which will be within the existing footprint of Wharfedale Hospital. The business case includes two new theatres, a recovery area, admissions and discharge area alongside making an existing ward operational overnight. The aim is for this work to be completed in 2024.

The Hub will provide operations including general surgery, minor cancers, urology and benign gynaecology. As part of the development there will be changes with the day unit and phlebotomy services moving into refurbished areas and a dedicated hysteroscopy treatment suite. Overall, the space for clinical services will increase.

Rob Armstrong, Associate Director of Operations at Leeds Teaching Hospitals, said; “We looked at whether we could increase capacity internally and that is what we are doing through the building of new theatres. We’re progressing well with that although it will take some time to come to fruition. We needed something more quickly, hence the Vanguard theatre.

“It’s no different to our other theatres. There have been no concerns about patient safety from clinical colleagues. This is the ‘dry run’ for when we open our new theatres here and it is going very well.”

Lindsay Dransfield, Chief Commercial Officer, Vanguard Healthcare Solutions, said: “We’re delighted to be working with the Trust on this important project and to see it having such a direct and positive effect on patient care, adding clinical capacity right in the heart of the community. The theatre is bringing elective care closer to the people who need it and means patients are able to access those essential services and procedures much more quickly and easily.”