New elective care hub to cut waiting times for operations

Published: 17 November 2023

Illustration showing plans for the new elective care hub at St Albans Hospital as seen from above
Plans for the new elective care hub at St Albans City Hospital

Shorter waits for surgery are a step closer in Hertfordshire and west Essex now that the green light has been given by planners to build an ‘elective care hub’ in St Albans.

Two new operating theatres at St Albans City Hospital are due to open in late 2024 and will be used to treat patients waiting for hip and knee surgery, spinal injections and ear, nose and throat (ENT) procedures.

After planning permission was granted earlier this month, the next steps are for the design to be finalised and for the business case to be approved by the boards of the four NHS organisations who are working together on this project: East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust, Hertfordshire and West Essex Integrated Care Board, The Princess Alexandra Hospital NHS Trust and West Hertfordshire Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust.

Elective care hubs are being created across the UK to improve access to planned surgery and other procedures. In common with the hub planned for St Albans, they are managed separately, away from emergency care in order to protect planned activity from the surges and pressures that could lead to cancellations.

It is expected that more than 4,000 patients will be treated at the St Albans hub in its first year, with scope to increase capacity by adding an additional procedure suite at a later date.

Patients will be carefully assessed to determine whether they are suitable for the hub. Those who need more specialised care will be seen at their ‘home’ hospital, which would be The Lister, The Princess Alexandra or Watford General. There will still be an option for patients who are deemed suitable for the hub to have their treatment at their local hospital.

Advances in surgery and anaesthetics, together with the focus on pre and post-operative care (which will provided at patients’ local hospital) means that nearly half of the patients seen at the hub will be discharged home on the day of their treatment.

Marie Lyons, who is a consultant ENT surgeon at The Lister Hospital and also the clinical lead for the elective care hub, said: “Elective care hubs are being developed across the country, concentrating on a defined set of non-complex procedures that can be delivered efficiently. Our hub is a partnership project and will draw on the best clinical practice across three hospital trusts to provide patients with a first-class service in modern buildings.”