Patients tune in for news of operations

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The Independent Online
A MIDLANDS hospital is advertising 'same day' operations on the radio to fill gaps in its waiting list caused by cancellations, and to reduce its backlog of patients waiting for more than year for orthopaedic surgery.

The idea was launched last week by the Worcester Royal Infirmary to try to clear a backlog of 120 patients needing minor surgery, and was devised by a medical secretary who used to spend up to two hours on the telephone on last-minute attempts to track down waiting-list patients.

In the new advertising scheme, the hospital releases details of operation cancellations to BBC Hereford and Worcester, which broadcasts the vacancies twice a day, after the 10am and 4pm news bulletins, and asks patients to contact the hospital urgently.

Medical secretaries take callers' details, contact the medical teams and make arrangements for the patients to come in for treatment within the next 24 hours, and often later the same day.

Hospital officials said that the scheme had already been so successful that it might be extended to other operating specialties and was also being considered by hospitals elsewhere in the county.

'We chose orthopaedic surgery to try this idea because this has our longest waiting list,' Dr Clive Studd, director of the infirmary's day-case surgery, said. 'At the moment we have a great deal of theatre time going to waste because of last-minute cancellations, or because medical teams are on standby for emergencies that do not happen. By publicising these vacancies we can cut waiting lists, help patients and generally run a more efficient service.'

Claire Perry, the medical secretary who suggested the idea, said: 'I have often heard other emergency messages broadcast on local radio for such things as people driving away on holiday without their airline tickets, and I thought it would be a good idea to solve our own problem in the same way.' One of the first patients to take advantage of the scheme was Douglas Pritchard, aged 71, who went to the hospital at 8.20am for a minor foot operation for which he had been waiting two and a half years.

'I was told that I might have to wait up to another three months after my operation was put back on the list when it clashed with a holiday,' he said. 'My problem has been caused by a piece of bone on the instep which becomes aggravated and swells up during the day. Now the operation is being done and I think it is fantastic.'

Other health authorities in the county considering the scheme include the Hereford district, whose spokesman, Douglas Caldwell, said: 'It will help the hospitals make full use of the facilities available and save a great deal of time. When a patient does not turn up for a scheduled operation, the medical team has to just wait there doing nothing.'