Last October, day case surgery hubs – elective care centres – were announced for cataract and varicose vein procedures. These prototype centres have been operational since December 2018 and form part of a long-term plan to reduce waiting lists.

Now the same approach is to be rolled out across a wide range of specialities, meaning that the provision of thousands of day case routine operations will be transferred to dedicated sites. The specialities involved are general surgery and endoscopy, urology, gynaecology, orthopaedics, ENT, paediatrics, and neurology.

Newly-established groups will take plans forward in each speciality, including identifying preferred sites for the centres. This work will help inform a regional model for day case surgery across Northern Ireland. It is envisaged that this model will be the subject of a public consultation before the end of 2019.
By December 2020, the department aims to transfer more than 100,000 day cases, 25,000 endoscopies, and 8,000 paediatric procedures to the new model.

Department of Health Permanent Secretary, Richard Pengelly, said, ‘Dedicated elective care centres are a priority and a key part of tackling hospital waiting times. All too often at present, routine surgery has to be postponed because hospital theatres are needed for urgent and emergency cases.

‘By creating day surgery hubs on standalone sites away from 24-hour Emergency Departments, we can make our system more productive for the benefit of patients.

‘A key issue will be the location of the centres. This will inevitably mean that some people will have to travel a bit further for their day surgery, but we will achieve significant and sustainable reductions in the waiting times for the procedures. Previous work suggests service users accept this trade off.’

The planning groups for each of the specialities will include clinicians and representatives from health and social care organisations. Evaluations from the prototype cataract and varicose vein centres will help inform the work.