More patients will able to receive treatment in Minehead instead of travelling to Musgrove thanks to a new technique.

An innovation in anaesthetic known as the 'nerve block' technique, which numbs a patient's whole arm prior to surgery, enables operations to take place under local anaesthetic, saving a trip further afield.

Subject to assessment by a clinician, this could see patients undergo hand and wrist surgery at Minehead Hospital.  Mr Anthony Gough, a consultant hand surgeon at Somerset NHS Foundation Trust who operates from Minehead Hospital, said: “This is a fantastic development for people in West Somerset, in terms of having better access to this type of surgery and the potential to reduce waiting times for surgery.

“Minehead Community Hospital is a fantastic environment for patients to have an operation, but although it has a fully functional theatre, it’s not possible to treat patients under a general anaesthetic. 

“This nerve block technique, which is a local anaesthetic around a patient’s large peripheral nerves, can be used with the guidance of an ultrasound machine in their axilla to allow surgery to be performed while the patient is awake.

“Most nerve block lists are performed while using sedation and have the option of giving a patient a general anaesthetic if the block doesn’t work. But by deliberately not having these options and developing specific robust safety protocols, this type of theatre list is unique in the south west, and possibly the UK.

“By running this at Minehead Hospital, we are not only reducing the time that patients need to wait for their operation, but are lowering the risk of an operation being cancelled due to other higher priority emergency operations. It’s so much more convenient for people in this rural area of Somerset.

“The operating list is patient-focused, and only for those who don’t need an overnight stay following their operation, as Minehead Hospital does not offer overnight surgical care.

“We know having surgery can be an anxious time, so colleagues in our surgery team are trained to provide the help and support to patients through every step of their surgery. They explain what to expect and help them to relax in an unfamiliar, but welcoming and relaxed environment.”