PATIENTS from Gwent who suffer life threatening or life changing injuries are set to benefit from a new South Wales-wide treatment and care network designed to give them the best possible chance of survival and recovery.
The South Wales Trauma Network – launched today – is made up of hospitals, emergency services and rehabilitation services, working together to ensure the region’s major trauma patients receive the best treatment and care.
Years in the planning, it is intended to deliver a major step forward in emergency care.
Across South Wales, around 2,100 patients a year are expected to be treated, and up to 70 more lives saved over the next five years.
Major trauma refers to multiple and serious injuries that could result in disability or death. These may include serious head injuries, and multiple injuries caused by road traffic accidents, industrial accidents, falls, knife and gunshot wounds.
The leading cause of death in people under the age of 45, major trauma is also a significant cause of disability or poor health.
But there is strong evidence from other parts of the UK that patients with these type of injuries have a better chance of survival if treated within a major trauma network.
“As well as saving lives, the network will improve patient outcomes by preventing avoidable disability, returning more patients to their families, to work and to education,” said Dr Dinendra Gill, clinical director for the South Wales Trauma Network.
Within the network there is a major trauma centre, trauma units, local emergency hospitals and rural trauma facilities, supported by other hospitals within the region.
In South Wales, the major trauma centre is at the University Hospital of Wales (UHW) in Cardiff. As major trauma is uncommon and complex to manage, the services provided in the major trauma centre are highly specialised and it collaborates with and supports other hospitals in the network.
There is also a trauma unit with specialist services at Morriston Hospital in Swansea, providing specialist support to the major trauma centre and specialist surgery for patients who do not have multiple injuries, but need burns, plastic, spinal and cardiothoracic surgery.
A network of trauma units (TUs) across South Wales will support the major trauma centre. In Gwent these are initially at the Royal Gwent and Nevill Hall Hospitals, but when it opens in mid-November, the area’s TU will be at the Grange University Hospital near Cwmbran.
Under the system, if you suffer major trauma – for instance in a road crash – paramedics will assess your injuries and if they think you need to be in a major trauma centre you will be taken by ambulance or helicopter straight to the major trauma centre.
But if they consider your life is in danger, you will be taken by ambulance to the closest trauma unit, where you will be treated and your condition stabilised before you are transferred to the major trauma centre for specialist care.
As soon as you are fit enough you will then be moved from the major trauma centre to a hospital closer to home. Such repatriation of patients is considered essential, to reduce the impact on patients, families and carers, and to help the major trauma centre ensure it can automatically accept new patients.
The coronavirus pandemic delayed the launch last spring, but it is now considered appropriate for the South Wales Trauma Network to ‘go live’ from today, with measures built in to mitigate the risk.
Significant investment is required in facilities and staff to support the network, with an estimated £60 million – including around £14.5m in the Aneurin Bevan University Health Board area – required to 2023/24.
More than 200 new whole time equivalent posts will be created, mainly at the major trauma centre at UHW, comprising consultants, doctors, nurses, healthcare support workers, allied health professionals, scientists, technicians, and administrative staff.
The TUs, including that at the Grange University Hospital, will also require more staff, notably major trauma practitioners and rehabilitation co-ordinators, who will be vital in ensuring seamless care and key points of contact for patients returning from acute care at UHW.