Hotline to the surgeon pays off for bowel patients

editorial image

Forth Valley patients undergoing bowel surgery are being asked to take part in a scheme said to cut recovery time from several weeks to just days.

In what’s seen as a unique move, local patients are given a direct number for the on-call surgeon, so they can put any serious concerns straight to an expert.

NHS Forth Valley says the programme has shown impressive results, with more than 100 patients already said to have benefited.

The programme includes group sessions designed to ensure patients are as prepared and knowledgeable as possible, and that they are actively involved in their own care.

Results are said to be particularly encouraging for patients undergoing keyhole surgery for conditions including bowel cancer, inflammatory bowel conditions (such as Crohn’s and Colitis) and diverticular disease.

Linnet McGeever, project manager for the initiative - who’s lead nurse for colorectal cancer - said: “Patients often find it difficult to take in information after major surgery, so we now bring them in before their operation when they are more receptive and also find it reassuring to have the opportunity to ask questions and practice using different products in advance.”

Paul Hendry, colorectal surgeon and clinical lead for the programme, said: “All our consultant surgeons who perform these operations are trained in keyhole surgery, many having undertaken advanced laparoscopic training in specialist centres around the world”.

He added: “We are probably the only hospital in Scotland which gives patients a direct link to the surgical team who can provide advice or arrange for them to come back up to the hospital to be seen in the Surgical Assessment Unit.

“So far, no one has abused this access, as patients realise that this an emergency number and should only be used for serious issues or concerns.

“In many cases we are able to provide advice, reassurance or follow-up checks which ensure patients don’t have to come back into hospital unless they really need to.

“As a result, our readmission rate for this type of surgery is lower than the national average and patients suffer fewer complications as they know what to look out for and are encouraged to take action at an early stage.”

One Forth Valley patient, train driver David Lewis - who is in his 50’s - was able to leave the ward two days after an operation and meet his wife and parents at Forth Valley Royal Hospital’s restaurant.

Next day he was allowed home, and he was able to take with him the hotline number for the surgeon.

He said: “Because I got out so quickly it was good to have that number if I had any problems.

“I wanted to get back to normal as quickly as possible and get on with my life.

“I was driving my car two weeks later and I now do a six mile walk at least once a week, sometimes two or three times”.

He added: “Three months after surgery I was back driving a train.

“I think I have been very lucky.

“When I meet people at work I say go and get your bowel screening done.

“I tell them not to be embarrassed about it, and to visit the doctor if you experience any problems.”