The Ophthalmology team at the RUH in Bath has been the first specialty to restart routine surgery, following the postponement of operations during the initial phase of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Before they restarted surgery on patients, the team set up a trial operating day, where they practised operations on realistic plastic eyes, which look like small fried eggs and are specifically designed for a cataract operation to be performed.
The aim was to practice every step of the process, from putting on and taking off the new PPE, to social distancing and explaining to patients about the new ways of working we’ve put in place to keep patients and staff safe.
The team used four simulation eyes and treated each one as a real ‘patient’.
The first sim eye was admitted to the ward at 7.45am. The nurses put on PPE, introduced themselves, admitted the ‘patient’ and put the sim eye onto a trolley.
The surgeons also put on their PPE, introduced themselves and went through the whole consent procedure.
The sim eye was then taken on a trolley through to the operating theatre where surgeons performed every step of the operation in full.
Consultant Ophthalmologist Jonathan Boulton said: “The trial operating day was a real success. All theatre staff were able to practice operating within the new guidelines, wearing full PPE and performing all the necessary safety checks.
“It allowed us to get used to the new ways of working and the procedures we would need to follow, before we started operating on real patients.
“It felt good to be starting again and I’m delighted that Ophthalmology was chosen to be the first specialty to restart routine surgery at the RUH since lockdown began.”
Nicola Haththotuwegama, a Senior Nurse in day surgery who took notes throughout the trial day, said: “During the COVID crisis, our theatre staff have been looking after ventilated patients.
“It was good for them, after so many weeks away from operating, to get their hands back onto the instruments, and to ease back safely into the rhythm of surgery.”
The RUH is working towards increasing the number of routine surgeries taking place, whilst also responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Patients who are due to have an operation at the RUH during the COVID-19 pandemic must isolate for 14 days prior to the date of their surgery. This also applies to everyone in their household.