Circle Health Group, the largest independent hospital group in the country with 52 hospitals and 2,000 beds, confirms it has joined a number of other major independent hospital groups in signing a contract with NHS England to offer additional emergency support during the next phase of the pandemic, as part of a sector wide deal between the NHS and the major independent hospital providers.
Since the first wave in March 2020, Circle Health Group hospitals across the country have supported the NHS by performing urgent, life-saving operations and treatments for over 400,000 NHS patients.
At the height of the pandemic, thousands of ‘P1’ and ‘P2’ cancer operations for the most urgent, complex and aggressive cancers had to be cancelled in the NHS as hospitals ran out of ICU beds and struggled to maintain ‘green’ covid-free units which allow the sickest cancer patients to enter hospital.
Circle Health Group’s staff stepped up to perform this complex surgery – usually only undertaken in major NHS teaching hospitals – and saved thousands of NHS patients from the poor outcomes they would have suffered if their treatment was cancelled.
Paolo Pieri, CEO of Circle Health Group, said:
“We’re enormously proud to have provided urgent, life-saving surgery for over 30,000 NHS cancer patients during the course of the pandemic, and have cared for more than 400,000 NHS patients.
“We stand ready to support the NHS in its time of need, and we have now reached formal agreement to offer additional support where necessary during the next stage of the pandemic.”
Case study: Cancer surgery at Circle Health Group’s The Park Hospital, Nottingham
The Park Hospital transformed into a specialist cancer centre over the course of a weekend and treated around half of Nottingham’s total of 700 cancer patients who needed surgery during the Covid-19 pandemic, working as an extension of Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust (NUH).
The Park Hospital adapted its high-dependency unit (HDU) capacity, transforming a recovery suite to an expanded HDU and increasing beds from an original five to 12 to accommodate patients with the most complex needs in Nottingham. Up to 20 operations were completed every day, including operations for people with breast cancer, kidney cancer, liver cancer, pancreatic cancer, throat cancer, thyroid cancer and bowel cancer.
The increased HDU capacity at The Park enabled Nottingham University Hospital
The Park Hospital in Nottingham undertook the highest volume of complex cancer work within the independent sector and became the largest centre for oesophageal cancer surgery in the country at one point. It achieved clinical outcomes in the top quartile in 7- and 30-day mortality, placing The Park Hospital in the top 3 hospitals in the country with Oesophago-Gastric centres during the pandemic.
Dr Keith Girling, Medical Director of Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust wrote to the team at The Park Hospital expressing the gratitude of his colleagues ‘for the tremendous support’ they had ‘all provided to NHS patients and NUH teams through this really challenging year. Through the collaborative work we have undertaken we have been able to provide care for a phenomenal number of patients.’
His colleague, James Catton, Cancer lead for Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “We need HDU beds in order to provide surgery for the most complex cases. We already had HDU expertise, but the limiting factor was the number of HDU beds.
“Over the course of a weekend – on Friday it was a recovery ward and on Monday it was an HDU – The Park was turned into a cancer hospital. That foresight, the willingness to change, the established HDU expertise and the supplement of junior staff, anaesthetic cover and NHS staff working alongside Park teams has allowed us to transform The Park into arguably the largest HDU outside London, enabling us to work on the most complex cases.”
For NHS patient Sophie Shardlow, who was discharged last May 2021, being able to have treatment and recovery at The Park relieved her anxiety. Mrs Shardlow, 54, had to have an operation to remove a cancerous tumour on her bowel after being diagnosed on the first day of lockdown, March 23.
The Rushcliffe resident said: “I was worried that my treatment would be held up because of [lockdown]. I thought it was going to be delayed. They said that I needed to have a Covid test first as The Park was a Covid-free hospital, and actually that was a massive relief to hear that.
“There were staff from The Park, QMC and City hospitals working together for the first time, so it was a real partnership. The main thing for me, was I got the treatment I needed, when I needed it and the staff and equipment was of the highest quality.”