Altnagelvin to be new NI orthopaedic hub

Health Minister Robin Swann has announced that Altnagelvin Hospital is to become one of two hubs in the north for orthopaedic procedures to help tackle “appalling waiting lists”.

Altnagelvin Hospital in Derry.
Altnagelvin Hospital in Derry.

Under the plans, Lagan Valley Hospital in Lisburn will be the location for Northern Ireland’s first Day Procedure Centre. Lagan Valley will become a hub for less complex, planned (elective) day surgery and procedures. This will mean local people will have to travel much further for some procedures.

In a further initiative, Altnagelvin Area Hospital in Derry and Musgrave Park Hospital in Belfast will be designated hub sites for orthopaedic procedures.

The Department has stated: “The rebuilding of orthopaedics at these sites following the first Covid-19 surge will be incremental, with a longer term aim to develop a region-wide network of orthopaedic practice, based on an alliance of the existing orthopaedic units.”

The Health Minister Robin Swann. (PressEye)

This news will come as a relief to the many patients waiting on procedures, with waiting times in Northern Ireland for orthopaedic surgery among the worst in the UK.

At present, local patients are being forced to wait for up to four or five years for operations such as hip replacements.

This situation has been further exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic, which led to the halting of most elective orthopaedic procedures.

Mr Swann said the new initiatives announced on Tuesday “are interim measures that will help inform the development of province-wide new models of care”.

“The decisions point to a new future for our health service with specialist centres of excellence playing a key role. However, we are not there yet. “My immediate priority is to get hospital services back up and running as quickly as possible, while also keeping patients and staff safe from Coronavirus,” the Minister said, adding: “That is why I am moving ahead with these interim decisions. Whilst I have stepped outside normal consultation arrangements on this occasion, the implementation phase will allow for the relevant Trusts to carry out engagement and consultation with patients, trade unions and professional bodies. I also give an assurance that any permanent changes to the way services are delivered will be subject to full public consultation and engagement.”

The Health Minister added: “These are vitally needed decisions that will facilitate the re-building of hospital services. Tackling our appalling waiting times remains a top priority for me.

“Establishing ring-fenced hubs for daycase and orthopaedic procedures is part of our long-term strategy for reducing waiting lists. It is also very important for infection control purposes.

“The approach is also in line with the direction of travel for our health service mapped out by the Bengoa and Delivering Together reports in 2016.

“The aim is to develop regional planning and regional waiting lists, so that patients can more easily and quickly access care across different Trust boundaries.”