Orthopaedic services are one of the biggest specialties in the NHS. It is estimated that about one third of people who visit their GP are seeking help with an orthopaedic problem. It is also estimated that half of the population will require orthopaedic surgery at some point in their lives – something I suspect many of us will not look forward to!
Everyone knows someone who has been on the receiving end of orthopaedic services. My mum had a hip replacement last year, my sister in law had treatment for cartilage in her knee joint six months ago, not to mention my neighbour who suffered with a broken ankle and had to have surgery just before Christmas.
Here in Wales, approximately £350 million is spent on planned orthopaedic care. That doesn’t include any orthopaedic treatment provided for emergency care. We, at the Wales Audit Office, are keen to make sure that the NHS in Wales is spending this money wisely.
Over the last six months, we have been looking at orthopaedic services across Wales. We have visited four hospitals in different parts of the country, read 100’s of documents, spoken to people involved in delivering the services and trawled through data which tells us how good or bad services are performing.
What’s most important to us though is hearing from those who use the services. A hospital may be providing a value for money service which performs well against its targets, but if it’s not making a difference to the people it serves then it’s not money well spent.
In the summer of 2013, we undertook a survey for all people who had undergone a knee replacement and we received a fantastic response. The findings of this survey have provided us with some really important messages to take back to the services. Knee replacements count for a large proportion of orthopaedic surgery, along with hip replacements but there a whole host of other reasons that people access orthopaedics.
Over the last month, we have been running an electronic survey to capture the views of as many people as possible who have needed to access orthopaedic services in the last two years.
Could you be one of those?
It may be that you didn’t need to go to hospital to receive these services but instead had treatment with a physiotherapist or other profession. We know many people choose to go private for treatment because waiting times can be long but we want to hear from those too to understand their orthopaedic journey.
You can help us by telling us your experience by completing our survey – the closing date for which is the end of January 2014.
All of our findings from our work are due to be published in a national report in March 2014. Our report will help to focus the attention on orthopaedic services where it is needed. And, as with all our national reports, the Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee will consider our findings, along with the actions being taken by the NHS in Wales to address the issues that we raise.
You’ll be able to access the report, when available, on our website.
Following a career in the NHS as a Clinical Governance Manager, Anne Beegan has worked for the Wales Audit Office and its predecessor organisations since 1999. Anne is a Manager within the health team and is responsible for a range of NHS projects.