The steps taken by experienced clinicians at The James Cook University Hospital to safeguard and protect specialist surgery during the COVID-19 pandemic has helped to deliver some of the shortest waiting times and best outcomes for patients in the country.
The hospital in Middlesbrough is a regional tertiary care centre – delivering specialist services to 1.5 million people across Teesside, North Yorkshire and the beyond – and was one of the first in the country to separate into COVID and non-COVID areas at the start of the pandemic.
Thanks to these and other COVID-safe measures, the hospital’s cardiothoracic centre has one of the shortest waiting times in the country for heart bypass surgery, and treatment and care for patients with brain tumours at the James Cook neurosurgery centre has been rated amongst the best in the nation.
Ralph White, cardiothoracic surgeon and clinical director at South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “It has been far from business as usual over the last year, but through the concerted efforts of all our wonderful staff we have maintained our ability to perform operations for heart surgery throughout most of the period of the pandemic. As a result our waiting times remain quite short for most patients, and we continue to have excellent outcomes.
“What is different is that we are seeing more people who need urgent surgery, because they are seeking help a bit later than usual. We think this is due the disruption caused by the pandemic. We wish to stress that patients with heart disease, or symptoms of heart disease, should not delay seeking medical help, as we are doing our utmost to continue to offer heart surgery to the people of Teesside and the wider region.”
Stuart Finn, South Tees’ service manager for neurosciences, said: “Neurosurgery at South Tees has assured access to services across the region, accommodating priority urgent patients from neighbouring trusts to allow the NHS system in the region to continue to deliver the expected high level of tertiary care.”