Hospital hub doubles number of surgeries for hips and knees

P

atients undergoing replacement knee or hip surgery are making it home on the same day after the transformation of care at a major London hospital.

University College London Hospital has managed to clear its backlog of patients awaiting complex knee and hip replacements after doubling the number of such operations in a year since becoming an orthopaedic “hub” for north-central London.

About 10 per cent of patients get home on the same day as their operation, while the average recovery time in hospital has been cut from four days to two for hips and five to three days for knees.

One patient, hairdresser Mark Pittman, 61, had his left hip replaced on April 12. He said the only reason he did not get home until the following morning was probably because the operation was at 11am rather than 9am.

“It was amazing,” Mr Pittman, who runs Bibas salon in Bloomsbury, said. “I was up and walking with a crutch the afternoon of my surgery, went home the following day and started back at work two weeks later.”

UCLH opened a new building last year that gives its orthopaedic surgeons five dedicated theatres and up to 32 beds, twice as many as previously available. At the start of the pandemic in March 2020, UCLH, like other NHS hospitals, suspended many elective operations to focus on treating Covid patients.

Last month there were a record 6.4 million people in England awaiting non-emergency treatment, including a million in London. Tens of thousands have waited more than a year.

But UCLH has performed 1,442 hip and knee operations in the 12 months to the end of March, compared with 748 the previous year. The average wait for surgery is now about three to five months.

Sam Oussedik, a consultant orthopaedic surgeon and clinical lead for trauma and orthopaedics, said: “Our overall numbers are not far off where they were pre-pandemic, to the extent we can probably help other hospitals with their long waiters.”

Surgical robots are used to make the operations — which typically take about 90 minutes — more precise, causing less tissue damage and resulting in less pain, which improves recovery times.

“We can’t get through more operations in a day but the operations we do are more accurate and the patients recover faster,” Mr Oussedik said.

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