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New mobile operating theatre for Orkney and Shetland to ease pandemic pressures

mobile operating theatre
Gilbert Bain Hospital in Lerwick, Shetland.

A new mobile operating theatre is to be sent to Orkney and Shetland, allowing almost 350 procedures to go ahead on the islands amid pandemic-related delays.

The new specialist unit is going ahead with a £2.3 million investment provided by the Scottish Government.

It will allow doctors to perform elective operations on cataracts and orthopaedic joint issues – meaning residents will not have to journey to the mainland for their procedure.

The unit is currently open at Gilbert Bain Hospital in Lerwick, where some operations that have never been done on Shetland before will be performed.

Procedures put on hold

Recent figures show that 111 patients in Orkney and 90 patients in Shetland were waiting for ophthalmology procedures, while 87 patients in Orkney and 74 in Shetland have been waiting for orthopaedic surgery.

Many non-urgent operations have been delayed due to the pandemic.

The recent increase in hospitalisations because of the Omicron variant has also put pressure on NHS services.

A mobile MRI unit has also been used to enable patients to have all appropriate scans undertaken before surgery in the additional theatre capacity.

That unit will remain open until June 2022, supporting additional hospital activity as the Gilbert Bain Hospital completes building works from April 2022.

Health Secretary Humza Yousaf.

Health Secretary Humza Yousaf said: “I am pleased we have been able to support the mobile unit in Shetland to provide additional theatre and MRI capacity to give island patients essential access to treatment closer to home.

“As NHS Scotland continues to deal with the challenges of Covid-19 this is a great example of innovation and dedication to the delivery of care.”

Diagnostics and Elective Care Lead for NHS Shetland Dawn Smith said: “By the end of the first two weeks of using this mobile operating theatre, we will have done the cataract activity we would normally perform in 15 months, reducing waiting times for new referrals from 18 months to under 12 weeks for most.

“This is obviously really great news for patients whose quality of life was affected by vision impairment.”

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