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Highland patients cut wait times switching hospitals


By Tom Ramage


Patients prepared to travel could significantly reduce their waiting times for procedures by choosing to have their care carried out at other NHS Highland hospitals rather than Raigmore.

Consultant Anaesthetist Katrina Gannon: “It’s not unusual for patients from across Highland to come to the Belford for their procedures.”
Consultant Anaesthetist Katrina Gannon: “It’s not unusual for patients from across Highland to come to the Belford for their procedures.”

An Aviemore man recently did just that by travelling 65 miles to have his procedure done at the Belford Rural General Hospital in Fort William rather than the 29 miles to the Inverness Hospital.

Instead of waiting five months, Mr James Mair (76) was able to be operated on in just five weeks.

Now other patients are being encouraged to make the same choice in order to make use of spare capacity in smaller hospitals like the Belford.

Mr Mair said: “It was five weeks or five months which is a big difference. And it was easy. My brother took me down. It was just over an hour’s journey and I was kept overnight so I travelled back the next day.

“The travel difference wasn’t much. By the time you get parking at Raigmore, you could have been there and back to Fort William in the same time.”

He was full of praise of the service provided at the Belford as well as the treatment he received prior to that at Raigmore: “The staff and the Belford Hospital were excellent, absolutely excellent. And it was so quick getting the appointment.

“It was my consultant at Raigmore, Ms Hogg, who asked if I would like to go to Fort William. She said it had been highly recommended by other patients. And I would also recommend it. If you get the chance to go, then go.”

Dr Katrina Gannon, a consultant anaesthetist at the Belford, said: “It’s not unusual for patients from across Highland to come to the Belford for their procedures.

“We do general surgery and general urology here. We have three operating lists per week and often have spare capacity. “As far as general surgery is concerned we have waiting times of only a few weeks for keyhole surgery to remove gall bladders and carry out hernia repairs, open surgery of hernia repairs, examinations under anaesthesia, operations on haemorrhoids and for ‘lumps and bumps’. The same is true for general urology, where we do hydrocele, circumcision and vasectomy procedures.”

The Belford has always operated on patients outside of its immediate catchment area occasionally, but when Raigmore Hospital had a problem with its theatre renovations about 18 months ago this became much more frequent.

Dr Gannon added: “We wanted to help, so we rearranged things to create some extra capacity which we could offer Raigmore.

"Some of the Raigmore surgeons still come to the Belford on a Wednesday to operate, mostly on their own Raigmore patients. But we also have some capacity for our own surgeons to operate on Raigmore patients and we have been doing quite a bit of that too."

“Of the 540 patients operated on at the Belford in 2018, about 100 were Raigmore patients. Looking at the data for 2019 so far, the proportion of Raigmore patients will be considerably higher."



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