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St Albans Hospital Theatre up and running again after eleven-month closure

11 May 2016, Sarah Newall, Communications

Hard work, dedication and team spirit has meant that St Albans Hospital has all six operating theatres open for Orthopaedics, General, Ear, Nose and Throat, Ophthalmology, Gynaecology, Breast Oncology and Urological surgeries.

Picture of a theatre operating table

In April last year the Estates department carried out a ventilation assessment survey and closed Theatres One and Four the day they received the results. This happened the day before the CQC inspectors arrived at the hospital.

The inspectors agreed that it was the right thing to do as they were “inadequate to support safe care". Theatre One opened again after ten days once issues relating to the ventilation system were fixed and after an eleven-month closure Theatre Four is once again up and running.

Theatre four had previously held up to 40 operations a week, the majority of which were hips and knees so in the meantime a great deal of extra Saturday work, juggling of lists between other theatres and the extensive use of a mobile theatre has been necessary.

Picture of Matt Sykes, Operational Theatre managerOperational Theatre Manager Matt Sykes (right) has worked at the Trust for over ten years.

He said: “Staff here have pulled together to work hard to try to reduce the impact on patients as much as possible. Impressively the hospital lost only about 25 per cent of patients during that period and the numbers of complaints during that time did not rise.

“It’s surprising what a lick of paint and a new floor can do but the nicer environment has had a positive effect on staff morale.

“I think following the findings of the report we are all now better informed and that has created an increased appetite for engagement with staff. They have all made a conscious effort to be better informed and more engaged, but also want to know how we have improved and want is getting better.”

CQC inspectors also deemed the environment in the men’s and ladies' changing room as inadequate, they were “not suitably maintained and had tiles missing off the walls.” It was said to be a risk to infection control and an eleven-month programme of repair work was required including the Theatres ventilation issues. Some £30,000 was spent on hand sinks, new toilets and brand new floors for the changing rooms.

In addition to this the CQC report also highlighted problems with governance and risk, issues which have since been addressed with the following actions:

  • Introduction of a governance patient safety board
  • New governance and risk newsletter for theatre staff
  • Improvements to the theatre pages on the staff intranet
  • The Datix system now used more effectively with processes in place so risk is at a minimum
  • All eight staff vacancies have been filled

Uptake on the Mandatory training programme has also increased. A simple email reminder is now sent all staff and the uptake has increased from 75% to 90%.

A private company is also currently examining the scheduling and booking systems for all theatres across both hospital sites in a bid to find ways of making them more efficient.


  1. For more information, please contact Sarah Newall, Communications in the Trust’s Communications department on telephone: 01923 436 280 or email: info@whht.nhs.uk. Out of hours, please call 07900 228 031.
  2. West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust is a large acute trust serving people from across Hertfordshire, north London and further afield. It operates from three sites at Watford, St Albans and Hemel Hempstead hospitals and sees about 600,000 patients a year. We are one of the largest employers locally, with around 4,500 staff and volunteers.