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NHS moves a step ahead towards its efforts to address covid-19 backlogs by opening a new ‘planned care’ hospital in Berkshire dedicated to non-emergency treatment. 

Heatherwood Hospital in Ascot, part of Frimley Health NHS Foundation Trust, will focus on cutting waits for routine care with staff prioritising patients who have been waiting longest, including for orthopaedic and ophthalmology services.

The hospital houses six operating theatres, 48 inpatient beds and 22 day-case cubicles and provides surgical, diagnostic and outpatient care, and will treat patients across Berkshire, Hampshire and Surrey.

There will also be a range of outpatient services under the same roof including gynaecology, urology and cardiology services. These will be supported by services offering patients endoscopy, physiotherapy, phlebotomy and radiology checks and treatments.

The elective recovery plan, published in February, set out a blueprint to address backlogs built up during the pandemic and aims to increase capacity over the next three years to deliver around 17 million diagnostic tests.

From one stop shops for lifesaving checks and new surgical hubs across the country to protect non-urgent care during the pandemic – local NHS trusts are pulling out the stops to boost capacity to carry out as many routine tests, checks and treatment as possible.

The new hospital follows other new community initiatives helping to tackle the backlog and get life-saving health checks to thousands of patients, including one stop diagnostic centres, same day hip replacements and mobile CT and MRI scanners.

Amanda Pritchard, NHS chief executive, said: “This fantastic new facility shows how the NHS is adapting and changing to meet current demands – putting in practice what we learnt about planned care during the pandemic.

“While new dedicated surgical hubs have been made available across the country to help protect non-urgent care, this hospital is the first purpose built facility aimed at tackling backlogs and getting quicker checks and treatments for patients who need routine care.”

Health secretary Sajid Javid said: “This brand-new hospital will be the first of its kind on our road to recovery and reform, putting patients in need of non-urgent care first and helping them to get the checks and treatments they need.

“We are delivering on our promise to tackle the Covid backlogs by ramping up routine surgery and providing quicker diagnoses – alongside other initiatives which include new surgical hubs and Community Diagnostic Centres, helping us to deliver 9 million more treatments, scans and operations by 2024.”

Hospitals have treated more than 600,000 patients with the virus, including over 100,000 who have been admitted so far during the Omicron wave, all while NHS staff and volunteers have continued to pull out all the stops to deliver more than 118 million vaccine doses, including more than 32 million boosters, in the biggest and most successful vaccination programme in health service history.

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