Hundreds of patients unable to undergo important surgery due to the pandemic will finally receive the procedures they have been waiting for.
NHS Shetland said as many as 400 folk would benefit from the mobile theatre which opens at the Gilbert Bain Hospital on Monday.
Over the next 12 weeks, patients from Shetland and Orkney will undergo procedures such as cataract removals and ear, nose and throat operations. And for the first time ever, joint replacements will be performed in Shetland.
Funded by the Scottish government, the mobile theatre has been provided in recognition that Northern Isles patients had been unable to travel for procedures during lockdown, resulting in a backlog of operations.
Acting chief nurse Amanda McDermott said the delays had harmed people’s quality of life. She said people had become less mobile while waiting for joint replacements and suffered loss of vision awaiting cataract surgery.
“All of these things keep people at home, they become deconditioned and the rest of their health conditions deteriorate,” Mrs McDermott said.
“For me it’s essential patients can be up and about again.”
Without the mobile theatre, Mrs McDermott said people could have been left waiting years more for the procedures.
Director of nursing and acute services Kathleen Carolan said patients had been struggling to move or manage their pain as the delays grew.
Mrs Carolan, who is project lead for the mobile theatre, said six months of work had gone into preparing for its arrival, involving a range of teams throughout NHS Shetland and partner organisations.
Vanguard Healthcare brought the facility to the Gilbert Bain last month. Since then, teams have been working to prepare for its first patients.
Patients will enter the mobile theatre via a corridor from the Gilbert Bain.
Vanguard’s Amanda Priest explained the mobile theatre’s integration had been “perfectly seamless”.
“Patients may not even realise they’ve left the main hospital,” she added.
While many of Shetland’s orthopaedic patients will have their procedures at the mobile theatre, those with more complex needs may still need to travel to the Golden Jubilee Hospital in Glasgow.
Mrs Carolan has assured those patients their procedures will also be completed.