Patients give thumbs-up to pre-op assessment service

Welcome to this month's column, bringing you up-to-date with developments at Alnwick Infirmary.

Thursday, 16th March 2017, 2:07 pm
Updated Friday, 24th March 2017, 9:56 am
Rothbury Community Hospital

This month we focus on our pre-operative assessment service, which is enabling many patients in this area to have their appointment closer to home.

Pre-op assessment is a vital appointment that has to take place before a patient has surgery, whether that’s in the day surgery unit at Alnwick or, if the operation is more complex or requires an overnight stay, at Wansbeck or North Tyneside general hospitals.

82-year-old patient Tom Snaith with community nurse Lauren Cockburn.

The aim of a pre-op assessment is to carry out any investigations or tests that have to be done before the operation can go ahead to reduce the risks from having surgery.

This could include taking a blood sample to be tested, as well as a swab from the skin to screen for MRSA – a standard practice for anyone being admitted to hospital for planned care and nothing to worry about. This is because many people carry MRSA on their skin, which is usually harmless, however, it can cause problems if the bacteria get into the skin.

If an MRSA presence is found on a patient’s skin, a simple treatment can be given to get rid of as much of the bacteria as possible before they come in for the operation, minimising the risk of themselves and others becoming infected.

At the pre-op assessment, the nurse will go through a patient’s medical history, including previous operations and medication they’re taking, and give any information the patient will need to know before they have the operation. This may include when to stop eating or drinking, whether they should stop their usual medication before the operation, and what to bring with them to hospital.

82-year-old patient Tom Snaith with community nurse Lauren Cockburn.

We know that many patients find the prospect of having an operation daunting and the assessment is about giving them as much information as they’d like and, above all, reassurance. It’s also an opportunity for patients to ask any questions they may have, no matter how small.

As part of our commitment to deliver as much care as we can locally, we have worked hard over the last couple of years to increase the number of pre-op assessments we carry out in Alnwick to save people from having to travel out of the area.

In the last year, 250 pre-op assessments have been carried out at Alnwick Infirmary. It’s excellent news that so many patients have not had to travel long distances for this appointment.

We’ve been really keen to build on this success and at the end of 2016 we relocated the service to a dedicated space alongside our occupation therapy (OT) department. This enables even closer working with our OT team and means that patients having an assessment prior to a joint replacement can see staff at the same time in a single appointment. This makes it even more streamlined for the patient and avoids additional journeys.

We’ve also expanded the team to include a nursing assistant, who works with the qualified nurse to improve the experience for patients.

We always encourage our patients to give feedback about our services and we’ve received very positive comments about our pre-op assessment service, which is fantastic. Every patient who completed a ‘two minutes of your time’ survey would recommend the service to family and friends. It met their expectations, they were treated in a courteous and respectful manner, and they had confidence in the staff caring for them.

This is great to hear and we will continue to look at ways we can further develop this service to ensure that as many patients as possible who are having surgery can have their pre-op assessment locally.

We’d also urge people who are given an appointment for a pre-assessment at another hospital in our trust to ask whether that could take place locally.

In other news, this week nominations for local people to become public governors of our trust opened. For our Berwick constituency area, which covers Alnwick and Rothbury, we are seeking four people to represent the views of residents and help build links with the communities we serve.

We’re looking for people who are as passionate as we are about local health and care services and can contribute time, experience and expertise to help us develop local services that are fit for the future and meet the needs of the people we serve. This is your opportunity to get involved and make a difference.

If you’d like to put yourself forward to be a governor you’ll need to register as a member of our trust, which is free. To find out how to do this visit and complete the online application form, or call the foundation membership team on 0191 203 1296.

After you have become a member of the trust, to make your nomination to become a governor please contact or call 0208 889 9203, or email [email protected]

Our foundation team is happy to provide more information about what being a governor involves. Please get in touch with staff members on 0191 203 1296 for an informal chat.

Before I sign off, I wanted to remind people about the public consultation which is currently ongoing on the future of inpatient services in Rothbury.

As you may know, NHS Northumberland Clinical Commissioning Group is inviting people to give their views on a proposal to permanently close the 12-bed inpatient ward at Rothbury Community Hospital and shape existing services around a Health and Wellbeing Centre on the hospital site.

A Health and Wellbeing Centre at the hospital could include the relocation of the GP practice, more physiotherapy services and more outpatient clinics, including the possibility of using video links so that patients can stay in Rothbury for local appointments, using technology to have consultations with specialists based outside of the village.

Full details, including how people can comment, are available in the consultation document and a summary leaflet. Both of these have been shared widely in Rothbury and the surrounding area and are also available online at

One public meeting and two drop-in sessions have already been held, and the following will take place before the consultation ends on April 25.

Public meeting: Thursday, March 30, 6.30 to 8.30pm, Jubilee Hall, Bridge Street, Rothbury.

Drop-in sessions: Tuesday, March 21, 6pm to 8pm, Group Room, Rothbury Community Hospital, Whitton Bank Road, Rothbury.

Wednesday, April 5, 2pm to 4pm, Simonside Room, Jubilee Hall, Bridge Street, Rothbury.

We’d urge you to have your say and would like to remind you that the many community and outpatient clinics that take place at Rothbury Community Hospital continue as normal.