Operating theatres had to be shut down

The operating theatre in the Phase One Orthopaedic Unit at Wrightington Hospital
The operating theatre in the Phase One Orthopaedic Unit at Wrightington Hospital

Patients treated at pioneering operating theatres in Wrightington Hospital were placed under “intensive” observations after ventilation problems at an £18m health facility caused a major shutdown.

Ultra-clean’ operating suites at the Barn Theatre at Wrightington Hospital were put out of commission after failing an internal audit last November, it has emerged.

Bosses at Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust (WWL) say no patients suffered any ill effects as a result of the closedown.

But managers at WWL have been anxious to reopen the theatres, which deal with orthopaedic surgery and were opened by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt in December 2015, as they are said to be “crucial” for the trust’s finances.

Work had to be transferred back to older theatres at Wrightington while an urgent investigation was undertaken by infection control experts.

NHS bosses reported to their quality and safety committee that patients were not put at risk by the unscheduled closure at the award-winning centre.

An “intensive” monitoring programme was conducted among those patients understood to be at risk, the committee was told, and “to date there had been no issues reported”. It is understood that the theatres have been gradually brought back online over the spring,

Trust accountants, including director Rob Forster, have told management the Wrightington barn theatres were considered to be a “key contributor” to WWL’s finances and it was “crucial for their budget to remain on track”.

Hospitals trust chief executive Andrew Foster is said to have already written to P21+, the national NHS supply chain organisation), to express the trust’s concerns over the out-of-action theatres. Four ‘ultra-clean’ theatres, supported by two 28-bed wards, and an admissions reception and post-operative, were unveiled nearly two-and-a-half years ago as part of a major overhaul at Wrightington. A WWL spokesman said: “The Barn Theatre is now fully operational. During the closure of the Barn Theatre all patients awaiting planned surgery were transferred back to existing theatres. During the period the Barn Theatre was undergoing testing, as a precautionary measure, all patients whose surgery was undertaken in the new theatre were monitored on the trust’s surgical site infection surveillance programme. We are pleased to note no patients have presented with any issues.”

Sir John Charnley and his groundbreaking work on hip replacement surgery in the 60s and 70s saw the Lancashire hospital recognised as a ‘centre of excellence’ in the orthopaedics field. The new theatres have received expert visitors from around the world, including a recent tour by the Dubai Bone and Joint Hospital Project, and contractors responsible for constructing the unit were given a Health Service Journal award for their achievements in estates management.