Mobile medical theatre in Gloucestershire to cut patient backlog
THOUSANDS of NHS patients will be sent to Cheltenham Racecourse for treatment as health bosses try to tackle a waiting list backlog.
Growing demand for endoscopy procedures has led the Primary Care Trust to bring in a private company to cope with the pressure.
It is setting up a mobile theatre at Prestbury Park to see patients for the vital service.
There has been rise in demand for the procedure, which uses a video camera to examine the inside of a body, due to an increase in screenings for bowel cancer.
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The number of patients waiting longer than the target time of six weeks went up to 391 in May – the highest it has been for six months.
Last week the trust's board heard it had again failed to provide diagnostic tests within the six week target.
Demand for the procedure is said to be growing at more than 40 percent per year.
The lengthy waiting times has led NHS Gloucestershire to give a 12 month contract to Prime Diagnostics.
The company, working with another firm, Vanguard, has set up the endoscopy unit at the racecourse. Based close to the vets, it will open to patients next Monday. Around 2,000 patients are expected to visit the unit at Prestbury Park in the next year, following referrals from GPs.
The Primary Care Trust, which is funding the private firm for the service, has remained tight-lipped about the cost of the contract. But Mark Walkingshaw, commissioning director of NHS Gloucestershire, insisted it was the only solution to cutting the waiting list.
He said: "Because of the increase in demand for endoscopies, particularly as a result of national cancer screening campaigns, we recognised the need to buy more endoscopy services for Gloucestershire.
"This means we can make sure we keep waiting times to a minimum and whenever possible, this service can be provided close to where patients live and work.
"Prime Diagnostics is an experienced endoscopy provider and was chosen following a competitive selection process."
Dr Tim Healy, Gloucestershire clinical lead for Prime Diagnostics, said the increased demand had put significant pressure on all hospitals.
He said: "This new service will provide additional capacity to undertake routine work, which will help to relieve the pressure on endoscopic services at the acute hospitals.
"It allows GPs to directly refer without the need for an outpatient appointment and brings healthcare closer to the community enabling more patients to be seen."
Ian Gillespie, chief executive of Vanguard Healthcare, said patients will receive the same level of care as they would in a hospital.
Mr Gillespie, who is unrelated to racecourse boss Edward Gillespie, said: "Our mobile units are fully fitted with the same equipment found in a hospital, enabling the medical team to begin conducting procedures from day one.
"The Gloucestershire PCT should be proud of its commitment to think outside the box."