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Award-winning Transforming Theatre Programme reduces surgical waiting lists

 Thirteen people on a stage with a pull-up banner behind them that says 'Health Service Excellence Awards', two people in the centre are holding an award

“The true reward of everyone’s collective efforts is reflected in the increased number of patients who have already benefited and will continue to benefit from the improvements driven by our staff every day,” according to Grace Reidy, Transforming Theatre Programme Lead, South/South West Hospital Group (SSWHG). Grace was speaking as an operating theatre quality project recently won two major awards, adding that “the commitment demonstrated by everyone involved in the programme has been extraordinary.”

The Transforming Theatre Programme was an 18-month pilot programme developed in response to long waiting lists for surgical care. It was a collaboration between the HSE, the Royal College of Surgeons Ireland (RCSI), the SSWHG, and the National Clinical Programmes for Surgery and Anaesthesia.

The project recently won the Innovation in Service Delivery award at the HSE Service Excellence Awards. In September, the project won the European Innovation Award 2023, presented by the European Association of Hospital Managers at an event in Luxembourg.

Prof Mark Corrigan, Clinical Lead, Transforming Theatre Programme, SSWHG explained that “working on this programme has been an immense privilege."

"It has personally allowed me to witness the remarkable transformation achieved by empowering our staff across 10 hospitals and 56 operating rooms. Their skill in identifying and driving improvements is exceptional.”

The programme uses an integrative approach to improve patient flow through the operating theatre. Theatre teams from each hospital in SSWHG were trained in Lean methodology to implement change across their perioperative service. It supported the hospitals to maximise their theatre resources as efficiently as possible.

The impact of the programme is evident, with improved operating theatre effectiveness across SSWHG. In the first six months of 2023, used theatre time increased by 1,363 hours, and 1,775 additional patients were seen compared to the same period in 2022.

The programme was developed by the HSE National Clinical Programme for Surgery. RCSI provided guidance on programme design, development, and delivery, with specialised input to the measurement system used.

Professor Deborah McNamara, Clinical Lead, National Clinical Programme for Surgery, added that “one of the programme’s aims was to provide a structured quality improvement methodology to achieve tangible improvements through a multidisciplinary team approach. It helped to engage nursing, anaesthesiology and surgical staff in operating theatre departments to identify and address the barriers to being more efficient.”

Due to the success of this project, the programme has now been extended and will be rolled out nationally as the National Perioperative Patient Pathway Enhancement Programme. The programme is a collaborative initiative, nationally coordinated by the HSE Strategic Programmes Office, and is currently being rolled out in two hospital groups: Dublin Midlands Hospital Group and Saolta University Healthcare Group.

Deirdre McNamara, Director of Strategic Programmes, HSE, further added that “the National Perioperative Patient Pathway Enhancement Programme will enable a more efficient and effective use of operating theatre resources. It supports our commitment to improving the patient experience and health outcomes by reducing waiting lists and ensuring more timely access to services.”

Watch the SSWHG team discussing the project