A radical project where patients can stay awake during their hip or knee replacement operation has almost halved the length of time people stay in hospital.

Scores of patients have benefited from a new system introduced by Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Trust.

People are now going home in an average of four days compared to the week they used to stay before the new system was introduced in July.

On one occasion a patient was able to go home the day after his hip replacement operation.

Patients are given a local instead of general anaesthetic during surgery along with sedation and a strong combination of painkillers.

It means they are conscious and alert immediately after surgery and, therefore, able to recover faster.

Each patient also has a two-hour session ahead of the operation which involves anaesthetists, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, dieticians and specialist nurses.

It means they are up to date with what is going on and confident enough to begin rehabilitation quickly.

Many patients are already beginning to get mobile on the day of surgery and it is not uncommon for them to be back on their feet within three hours.

Every patient is also contacted by a member of the Chichester and Worthing Enhanced Recovery Programme (CWERP) team two days after going home.

Light exercise

This means concerns can be dealt with quickly and potential problems picked up at an early stage.

Operations are carried out at St Richard’s Hospital in Chichester but all other parts of the patients’ care are done at Worthing Hospital and Southlands Hospital in Shoreham.

Architect Roy Jones, from Pagham, went into hospital for a knee replacement operation, which lasted 90 minutes.

Within four hours of surgery the 79-year-old had been assessed by a physiotherapist, performed light exercises and walked very short distances. He was home within four days.

Mr Jones said: “I knew what to expect. I wasn’t frightened.

“Not having a general anaesthetic meant that I didn’t feel horrible after the operation and I was walking within three hours.”

Trust consultant ortho-paedic surgeon Richard Hill said: “Under the old system, patients were getting a good standard of surgery but would often feel terrible afterwards. That would slow down their recovery and mean that they might spend a pretty miserable week in hospital.

“Now we are seeing a real transformation in the way patients respond after their operation.”

Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals and East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust also both use enhanced recovery programmes.

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