A multi-million-pound investment has been announced at Swansea’s Singleton Hospital to tackle long waits for eye surgery.
A new operating theatre dedicated to ophthalmology procedures is set to open in the summer of this year – allowing the health board to carry out around 200 additional operations a month.
It’s hoped that figure will increase over time, with the possibility of weekend and evening sessions being introduced.
The new modular theatre will be attached to the Day Surgery Unit on the opposite side of Sketty Lane from the main Singleton site.
It is costing £3.3 million, with a further £700,000 investment in new equipment. Additional staff are also being recruited.
Swansea Bay University Health Board has embarked on an ambitious programme called Changing for the Future, which will see health services delivered in a new and more efficient way.
Part of the programme includes creating a series of centres of excellence at the health board’s main hospitals.
Singleton will become a centre of excellence for a number of specialties, including ophthalmology, which is already located there.
Like many other parts of Wales, Swansea Bay had long waiting times for ophthalmology before Covid. But the pandemic has considerably worsened them – hence the need for action.
Jan Worthing (right), Singleton Hospital Director, said: “The reduction in theatre capacity as a result of Covid severely impacted all surgical specialties, but particularly ophthalmology due to the high numbers of patients affected.
“We now have about 2,500 waiting for eye surgery. About 1,700 of these have waited longer than the 36-week target
“In addition, there are about 2,100 cataract patients waiting more than 26 weeks to be seen as an outpatient, and around 80 per cent of these are likely to need surgery.”
Mrs Worthing said the health board had invested significant amounts of recovery funding to support patients having their surgery at one of three private hospitals.
“However, we are keen to develop additional NHS facilities to reduce the need for this outsourcing in future,” she added.
Groundwork has already started, with the modular theatre expected to be on-site by the end of March.
Jo Williams, Divisional Manager for Ophthalmology, said additional theatre, nursing, medical and support staff were being recruited, with the new theatre expected to become operational by early July.
“It will deliver approximately 200 additional ophthalmology cases a month initially” she added.
“In the longer term we hope we can start doing evening and weekend sessions to meet the needs of the local population for ophthalmology surgery.”