A £4.1 million investment in Swansea’s Singleton Hospital has made it a UK leader in the diagnosis of cancer and other serious conditions.
The nuclear medicine department’s two oldest scanners – one the oldest in the UK – have been replaced with cutting-edge new ones which provide extremely sharp images.
The new equipment will help clinicians spot cancers earlier.
Singleton is home to the South West Wales Cancer Centre and while the two new SPECT-CT scanners will be used primarily in cancer diagnoses, they will also be used in other specialties – cardiology, for example.
The GE-manufactured machines are a StarGuide, nicknamed Seren (Star), and an NMCT 870DR, nicknamed Draig (Dragon).
They use different scanning components fused together to provide more accurate information about the area being imaged.
Seren is the first model from the manufacturer to be used in the UK and includes a technology known as CZT (Cadmium-Zinc-Telluride) in a hybrid SPECT-CT digital 3D imaging system.
It features 12 detectors in a ring design, with every detector placed at the optimal position independent of the others.
“The detectors enable close proximity to patients and focused scans” explained Head of Nuclear Medicine, Professor Neil Hartman.
“The improved SPECT resolution enables sharp images for better visualization of fine anatomical details.
“This is important to help enable physicians, radiologists, and cardiologists detect disease at earlier stages.
“The compact design of StarGuide detectors affords increased proximity to the patient, high image resolution and sensitivity.
“Resolution is the ability to distinguish a cancer or other lesion from something else. Sensitivity is the ability to discover a lesion.
“Both the new machines are much more sensitive to discovering new cancers or differences in myocardial muscle performance and so on.”
Funding for the new scanners and associated work was provided by the Welsh Government.
Professor Hartman said the department had undergone an immense transformation, with the work taking around six months to complete.
“We have a lot of scientific and other expertise but our two nuclear medicine scanners at Singleton were more than 20 years old. One was the oldest working scanner in the UK,” he added.
“The transformation has put Singleton nuclear medicine, and therefore the greater Swansea Bay area, on the map.
“We have gone from being an ugly duckling to a UK leader in diagnostic capabilities.”
Clinical team lead Monica Martins added: “It is a real privilege to lead a service which has cutting edge technology available to potentially introduce novelty into patient care and benefit diagnostic pathways.
“It will also facilitate research and development with enough power to influence change in the entire field of nuclear medicine.”
Each machine has two scanning components: SPECT (Single Photon Emission Computed Tomography) and CT (Computed Tomography).
SPECT images are obtained following an injection of a chemical which is mildly radioactive and absorbed by the tumour or the part of the body being scanned.
The gamma radiation emitted is detected by a special camera that rotates in a complete circle to construct a 3D image.
CT images are obtained while the patient lies on the same bed, which slides through the centre of the scanner as it rotates in a 360-degree arc. Both images are then merged to give the best possible result.
Radiologist Dr Alex Powles said: “It is fantastic to have state of the art SPECT-CT scanning facilities.
“This will no doubt improve the diagnostic pathway for patients across the spectrum of cancer and other hospital specialties.
“It will also likely reduce the requirement for additional imaging investigations such as MRI.”
Principal clinical scientist Catherine Humphreys said the two scanners would allow them to scan faster and reduce radiation doses – while still ensuring excellence in diagnostic imaging quality.
She added: “We are delighted to be able to offer this cutting-edge diagnostic nuclear medicine service for our patients.”
Clinical scientist Rachel Bidder said patients not just from Swansea Bay but from Cwm Taf and Hywel Dda too would benefit from the ground-breaking investment.
“They will receive the best nuclear medicine experience in Northern Europe and we are extremely proud of this achievement,” she said.
Radiologist Dr Victoria Trainer said she was delighted the people of Swansea Bay and its neighbours would now benefit from the latest technology and the best imagining quality.
“Our increased capacity and optimised imaging should reduce waiting lists, improve diagnostic accuracy, reduce the need for further imaging, all hopefully smoothening and shortening the patient pathway at what can be difficulty times for them.”
Lead image: Pictured with the new scanner are Swansea Bay NHS clinical team lead Monica Martins and principal clinical scientist Catherine Humphreys (Image: Swansea Bay NHS)
Plans for Vascular Hybrid Theatre at Morriston Hospital get a major boost
Plans for a state-of-the-art new operating theatre at Morriston Hospital which combines a traditional operating room with advanced medical imagery, have taken a huge step forward.
Health and Social Services Minister Eluned Morgan has endorsed the high level multi million pound proposal. This means Swansea Bay University Health Board can now develop the next-stage detailed business case for the Vascular Hybrid Theatre for South West Wales.
Vascular surgery treats patients with diseased arteries and veins. Blocked arteries can result in limb loss (amputation) and swollen blood vessels (aneurysms) which can burst, resulting in sudden death.
The Vascular Hybrid Theatre, the first in South West Wales, will combine operating theatre functionality and state of the art X-ray imaging equipment. It will treat around 500 patients a year, and some patients who currently need to go to England for treatment will be able to have their care in Swansea instead. The theatre could open early in 2025.
The new theatre will be used by Morrison Hospital’s vascular surgeons and radiologists to carry out minimally invasive techniques, often known as ‘keyhole surgery.
Compared with traditional surgery, hybrid operating theatre surgery is less invasive and less traumatic for patients. The hybrid approach will give patients quicker access to surgery and in some cases could mean the difference between limbs, and lives, being saved.
Currently, a significant number of South West Wales’ patients undergo staged procedures during their care, which can lead to multiple or prolonged stays in hospital.
Swansea bay University Health Board say that access to these new advanced surgical technologies will allow Morriston’s vascular surgeons to perform both minimally-invasive image guided procedures, as well as traditional open surgery. This will not only improve the overall patient experience, but reduce the risk of amputation, reduce the length of stay in hospital and cut waiting times.
The hybrid theatre will treat patients from the Swansea Bay, Hywel Dda and Powys health board areas.
Investment in the new theatre will also save a significant amount of money for the health service because the surgical techniques the hybrid model supports not only improve patient outcomes, they are also much more efficient.
The hybrid theatre will also support the clinical staff teaching.
Huma Stone, Swansea Bay UHB’s Associate Service Director, Clinical Support Services for Morriston Hospital, said: “We welcome this long awaited development and are excited that we will be able to treat patients using a combination of traditional surgery and the latest minimally invasive (keyhole) treatments at the same time, saving lives and limbs. This also reduces the number of times a patient is admitted, and shortens the patient stay in hospital.”
Senior Consultant Vascular Surgeon Louis Fligelstone said: “This brings state of the art facilities to west Wales that will enable optimal treatment of patients with swollen blood vessels (aneurysms) and blocked blood vessels and will save lives and limbs, whilst reducing the time patients spend in hospital.”
(Lead image: Swansea Bay NHS)
£2.5m investment aims to help tackle hospital waiting lists in Swansea Bay by expanding care after surgery
Swansea Bay University Health Board say a £2.5million investment in a new service that provides enhanced recovery support for patients following some types of complex surgery, will open the way for Singleton and Neath Port Talbot hospitals to do even more to tackle waiting lists.
In the wake of the two-year+ pandemic, pressure on waiting lists is higher than ever. Changes to how Swansea Bay University Health Board delivers services; and investment in staff and equipment, are aimed at bringing those waits down the health board says.
One of the key investments is focused on expanding enhanced post-operative care facilities, which offer a step up from general ward care for patients who need extra support immediately after their operation.
This includes offering patients advanced pain relief, blood pressure monitoring and oxygen support in the immediate 24-48 hour post-operative period.
These facilities and services are not as intensive as high dependency or intensive care units. However, this additional layer of care will offer Swansea Bay hospitals greater flexibility over where that surgery can be carried out.
Opening these services in Singleton and Neath Port Talbot hospitals mean they will soon be able to offer a wider range of certain surgeries which are currently only carried out in Morriston Hospital.
Pankaj Kumar, Deputy Group Medical Director, Morriston Hospital and the project lead said: “In providing these enhanced post-operative care facilities, the health board is providing right-sized, fit for purpose, post-operative care that is responsive to every patients’ needs and is efficient in its delivery of care.
“It will lead to improved patient care and better clinical outcomes for patients, and will also reduce the time they spend in hospital.”
The health board says that expanding these services will also ease the pressure on critical care units located on the Morriston site, and reduce the risk of a scheduled operation being cancelled at the last minute because an emergency patient needed the bed.
Singleton Hospital, which already carries out some complex surgery, will benefit from four enhanced post-operative recovery beds to begin with (eventual plan is for six beds) offering the enhanced post-operative recovery facilities particularly for colorectal and gynaecology patients.
Neath Port Talbot’s plan to become the Orthopaedic Centre of Excellence will be supported by enhanced recovery unit beds being introduced in phase two, with the commissioning of three beds. This development will also help urology surgical patients.
Morriston Hospital already has advanced post-operative care beds as part of post-anaesthetic care unit services to complement its higher level of critical care beds.
Breakfast club dishes up dose of wellness to socially isolated
A new breakfast club is dishing up the opportunity for people in Swansea to connect with each other.
The well-being project is partly funded by the Bay Health Cluster, which is made up of eight GP practices spread across the Sketty, Uplands, Mumbles and Gower areas, as it aims to tackle social isolation among adults.
Based at Linden Church in West Cross, the weekly drop-ins are run by Red Community Project, an organisation which aims to bring people together and help build good relationships.
Each person is offered a cooked breakfast and is encouraged to get to know those around them.
Rachel Matthews, from Red Community Project, said: “We are hoping to make Linden Church a well-being hub in the area.
“Every Wednesday we have a free breakfast club with a cooked breakfast and our target group is people who are lonely.
“It is one of the target issues in West Cross as it’s an area with no Men’s Shed or anything for men, in particular, with mental health issues.
“We have had a mixture of people come so far. We’ve even had the police attend, as well as the local postman, so it’s definitely got a community feel to it.
“We are hoping to build up a safe place for people to come and we hope it is going to grow.”
Anyone living in the nearby area is welcome to attend the weekly drop-ins, whether they feel lonely or not.
One person who has enjoyed going along is Vance Horn.
He said: “I think it’s a great project because it gives me a break from my flat and gives me time to be with other people.
“I have been coming along since the start.
“The food here is really nice and the staff are brilliant. They are very generous in giving up their free time.”
While Jeremy Breem added: “I come here for breakfast every Wednesday and I’ve met some nice people through it.
“It helps to get you out of the house and seeing people, which I think is great.”
John Bennett is just one of the multiple volunteers who give up their time to cook, chat and clean up at the weekly meet-up.
Red Community Project also oversees the local food bank in Mumbles, with many of those volunteers lending a hand at the breakfast club too.
“It’s nice to be able to give something back to people,” Mr Bennett said.
“Some of the people here may not see anybody again or talk to anybody again for the rest of the day.
“At least here they can come and have something to eat or have a chat and hopefully it makes them feel a bit better.
“They must feel like it’s something nice to come to as we have offers of help from them to do the dishes afterwards, so it’s nice they want to give something back to us as well.
“You definitely get something out of helping other people.”
Bay Health Cluster lead, Dr Nicola Jones, said: “We are delighted to be able to help support the West Cross Well-being Project.
“It is providing a much-needed space to allow the local population to re-establish those vital connections to each other which we all missed out on during the Covid-19 pandemic, and which are vital for maintaining a healthy, thriving community.”
Lead image: Dan Evans, Barbara Matthews and Rachel Matthews of Red Community Project (Image: Swansea Bay NHS)
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