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COUNTY Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust is providing a new rapid access clinic for women requiring gynaecological consultations, diagnostics and treatments as part of its work to improve patient services.

 The service available at Chester-le-Street Community Hospital (CSCH) provides gynaecological patients with a new outpatient clinic, which gives women more choice in terms of where they are treated, as well as improving services by enabling them to be seen for a variety of issues or procedures, within a 'one stop shop.'

 Gynaecological and colposcopy services are available at the Trust's other hospitals, including Bishop Auckland (BAH), where a similar rapid access clinic operates. Although patients can also be seen at the University Hospital of North Durham (UHND), Darlington Memorial Hospital (DMH) and Shotley Bridge Community Hospital, these do not have the outpatient diagnostic and treatment facilities provided at both CSCH and BAH and as a result, many procedures are carried out within theatre.

 Carole Fletcher, the Trust's matron / service lead for gynaecologcial services, explained that some procedures, such as hysteroscopies, which are used to identify abnormalities in the uterus, some sterilisations and ablations, do not need to be done in an operating theatre and can be done in an outpatient setting, which is how many women prefer to be treated.

 The Trust wanted to ensure there was equity in its services, so regardless of where patients lived, they had access to the same gynaecological services available elsewhere in the region. As a result, a new facility has been developed at Chester-le-Street Community Hospital.

 The one-stop, rapid access gynaecological clinic is now open four days a week, with plans in place for it to open five days in the future. It has streamlined services, enabling women to be seen quickly at the new clinic, where all of their gynaecological health needs can be addressed in one appointment.

 Maureen Ward, 65, from Ushaw Moor, is one patient very pleased with the service and treatment she received at the new clinic at Chester-le-Street Community Hospital.

 After an initial appointment with her GP she was seen just three days later by a consultant at the new clinic, who then referred her to oncology at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Gateshead.

 "I couldn't have had a better experience," she said. "I was seen so quickly at the clinic and it's a lovely new building, the facilities are very good and the medical staff, nurses, everyone was very, very good. They arranged all my scans and X-rays and things ready for my referral to QE."

 Mrs Ward, who is a retired nurse, required a full hysterectomy, which was carried out at UHND. She is now recovering from the operation at home. She said, "They say it'll be three months for a full recovery. It's obviously quite a big operation, but it's gone very well and I had a very positive experience."

 Carole Fletcher added, "That's what the new clinic is about. We want to provide the best services for patients, close to home, so they are seen quickly and easily and have the best possible experience and outcomes for their health."

 Nurse Ann Reed has completed her training to become the first gynae nurse hysteroscopist within the Trust; she has also completed her training as nurse colposcopist, together with Janet Butcher. Both nurses will undertake their own clinics within the Trust complimenting the existing diagnostic / colposcopy team.

 County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust is one of the largest integrated care providers in England, serving a population of around 600,000 people across County Durham, Darlington, North Yorkshire, the Tees Valley and South Tyneside. The Trust brings together hospital, community services and health and wellbeing services to provide high quality and seamless care for patients.


'In recent times, I have utilised admissions to Richardson for respite direct from my fracture clinic, even at weekends. I have never worked anywhere with this efficiency before - it is reassuring and invaluable for the patient.'

Patient, Lowson / Starling Wards, Richardson Hospital