A dedicated regional anaesthetic ‘block room’ at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital (QEUH) has helped improve patient recovery and reduce the average length of hospital stay for 1,000 patients.

Thanks to the creation of the service, length of stay has on average, reduced by 25% (five hours) for patients, while surgical time available for clinicians to tackle waiting lists has also increased substantially.

The block room was set up in 2020 to reduce the reliance on general anaesthetics during the first wave of COVID-19. The service provides patients with specialist regional anaesthesia which blocks nerves to provide effective pain relief ahead of surgery while also allowing them to remain awake, therefore avoiding risks and side-effects associated with general anaesthetic.

Additionally, patients are 17 times less likely to have significant pain after surgery, and far less likely to need strong pain killers, such as morphine.

As the block room has become more established and the understanding of regional anaesthesia better understood, QEUH patients who undergo regional anaesthesia are now regularly discharged in as little as two hours following surgery, avoiding an overnight stay and freeing up bed capacity at the hospital.

A dedicated space for anaesthesia to take place also means around two hours of additional surgical capacity is created per day in theatres, allowing surgeons to see more patients.

Regional anaesthesia can be used across a vast range of surgical procedures and has also proven highly effective in providing pain relief to major trauma patients.  This form of pain relief helps in many injuries, but particularly chest trauma, where such patients may otherwise require intubation (induced coma), which can carry greater risk to the patient and result in a longer recovery time.

Iain Thomson, consultant anaesthetist, and lead for the QEUH block room, said:

“Block rooms have been used in the USA for a number of years, so it’s fantastic to have been able to bring this model to Scotland and see how much it has benefitted QEUH patients. They don’t need to be put under, they take less time to recover and they don’t experience nausea or vomiting, and other potentially nasty side-effects of general anaesthesia. As we recover from the pandemic, the more efficiently we can treat patients, the more patients we can treat. The block room is a key asset here as it helps free up bed space, and also means our surgical teams can fit in more procedures as we take up less theatre time for anaesthesia.”

Wesley Stuart, Chief of Medicine at the QEUH, added: “We’re delighted to see the 1,000th patient benefit from the block room. As well as improving patient experience and increasing surgical capacity, it has also proven to be a valuable teaching resource.  We’re able to provide expert regional anaesthesia training to our staff, which is laying solid foundations for the future of our block room at the QEUH as well as providing the opportunity to share techniques with other centres and Health Boards across the country.”