HOSPITAL stays for many patients after hip and knee operations are being cut in half thanks to a new service launched by South Tees NHS Foundation Trust.

It is down to a new dedicated joint-replacement service introduced at the Friarage Hospital in Northallerton where patients are now being encouraged to become mobile as quickly as they can. That means instead of spending five days in a hospital bed before getting up, they are helped to get up as soon as possible, with many now going home within two or days.

Because less time is spent in a hospital bed it means there is a reduced risk of infections and a faster return to independence for patients. For the hospital staff this also allows more patients to be treated each week, helping to ease pressures on waiting lists.

The service is based on 12 dedicated beds on Gara elective orthopaedic ward, which is backed up with innovative advanced planning and support from specialist nurses and physiotherapists. It means the arthroplasty service at the Friarage is now carrying out up to 20 planned procedures a week, with plans to do more.

It has been a huge boost for patients. Robert Gordon, 68, of Marton had a hip replacement and was allowed home the next day. He said the whole experience was much quicker than he had expected.

Mr Gordon added: “I went in on the Wednesday morning, had my operation and was home the next day. It was great. I was pleased to get home and my wife was overjoyed. I’m doing really well, improving every day and getting stronger.”

Nicola Bell, 45, of Masham who was diagnosed with shallow hip sockets at the age of 17, had a replacement operation in January and was home within four days. Her stay would have been even shorter, but she had an adverse reaction to the medication. Nicola said she arrived at the Friarage at 7.30am and was back on the ward eating by 11am. She added: “The anaesthetist was fantastic, he explained everything. I couldn’t fault any of the care provided, it’s an excellent ward the nurses had a lot of patients but were always smiling.”

The programme is part of Getting it Right First Time, a scheme delivered with the Royal National Orthopaedic NHS Trust.

Acting ward manager Kathryn Young said the initiative had been welcomed by staff as a chance to make a really positive difference to patients and she had been impressed by the team’s enthusiasm and commitment to the chance to develop the service, which is also helping to cut waiting times.

She added: "It is testament to the culture and teamwork already in place on the ward. Our ultimate aim is to have most patients home within two days. It’s giving patients better outcomes and reducing the amount of time they have to spend in hospital. If we get them back home quickly they will do more for themselves and recover better and are less likely to be readmitted. It’s a win win for everybody.”