The NHS at 70 – with patient choice at its heart

This week sees the 70th anniversary of the NHS, and one of Bristol’s first treatment centres will be joining in the celebrations after carrying out more than 140,000 procedures.

Emersons Green NHS Treatment Centre, which opened in 2009, was one of the first in Bristol to offer NHS patients specialist, elective secondary care – such as hip and knee replacements, eye surgery and diagnostic imaging – in a dedicated centre.

Since it opened it has carried out more than 140,000 procedures, meaning people across Avon & Somerset, Gloucestershire and Wales have been able to return to their work and the activities they love.

Hospital director Rob Thomas said: “When treatment centres were announced in 2003 they were an innovation that pushed care forwards. Many of our team are from the area and where here on the day we opened. We are all very proud of what the NHS has achieved and our part in delivering it.

“We have done so much innovative work here, including reducing the time people need to spend in hospital after surgery, through our enhanced patient pathway.

“When we opened, the average length of stay for patients undergoing hip and knee replacement was five days, compared to the typical NHS patient stay of seven to ten days. 

“Our length of stay has now reduced to an average of 2.5 days, often less for hip replacements, reducing the risk of a patient developing potential fatal deep vein thrombosis or infection and allowing the patient to recuperate in their own home.”

“We have created an ophthalmology service reducing the waiting times for people to have cataract surgery. We did this by researching and creating a one-stop visit service that sees patients assessed and operated on by a consultant on the same day. This keeps waiting lists remarkably short, anxiety very low and patient safety is exceptionally high.”

Looking at the 70 years of the NHS, Rob said: “The birth of the NHS represented a revolution in the availability, choice and delivery of healthcare to all. But what is not quite so well-known is a patient’s right, under the NHS Constitution, to choose where they receive treatment, and their right to move waiting lists if they have been told they must wait for longer than 18 weeks.”

In 2008 the scope for patients to choose where they received their care was expanded to include the right to choose to have treatment in any facility which offers NHS care.

And, if a patient has been told they must wait for longer than 18 weeks for treatment, they can also ask to be moved to a shorter waiting list.

Rob said: “There is capacity within the system for patients to switch waiting lists, and we are seeing a greater number of patients who have decided to leave a longer list and come to us for their NHS treatment.

“Colleagues in the local NHS hospitals do a truly fantastic job caring for patients with urgent and complex conditions and we understand the priority they must give to those patients. We are able to support those hospitals, by treating patients where waiting times are locally increasing, for example in  hip and knee replacement and cataract surgery. Patients can simply ask their GP for a referal to us for treatment. In addition, patients already on long waiting lists can ask to be transferred to us.

“As the NHS celebrates its 70th anniversary, it is reassuring to know that patient choice remains central to its philosophy and delivery. Choice is not only good for us as patients, but it also benefits the NHS itself, as choice helps us to make the very best use of the resources the NHS has available.”

To find more out about Emerson Green NHS Treatment Centre visit: or call 0333 999 7641.