Inside Gateshead Health’s Trauma and Orthopaedics Ward 21

Patient safety is an unwavering priority in our National Health Service (NHS). Within the intricate tapestry of our national health facilities, we have many departments specialising in certain healthcare areas.

One such department at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Gateshead is Ward 21, a trauma and orthopaedic ward that focuses on geriatric medicines, the prevention of falls and trips, and the management of syncope (SINK-a-pee, another word for fainting or passing out) episodes.

Understanding the relationship between different factors is crucial for ensuring the well-being and safety of patients in orthopaedic settings.

To understand more, we spoke with specialist Doctor Mike Wilkinson.

Dr Mike Wilkinson - Trauma and Orthopaedics, Ward 21
Specialist Doctor Mike Wilkinson with Gateshead Health NHS Foundation Trust

Gateshead Health’s Trauma and Orthopaedics Ward 21 handles emergencies for geriatric medicines, falls, and syncope in the Gateshead area.

Ward 21 focuses primarily on older people with hip and femur (the bone of the thigh connecting at the hip and the knee) fractures that require emergency treatment. The ward sees between 350 and 400 cases per year, on average. These cases mainly see fractured hips and femur bones that have occurred whilst the patient has been mobile. Ward 28 handles all planned hip and artificial surgery operations.

Mike explains that falls and trips can pose significant threats to patient safety, mainly when individuals are already vulnerable due to muscle or skeletal injuries. These injuries can be very painful and can limit a person’s ability to perform daily activities. Treatment for musculoskeletal injuries may include rest, physical therapy, medication, or, in some cases, surgery.

Factors contributing to falls range from environmental hazards like slippery floors or inadequate lighting to patient-specific factors such as impaired mobility or medication side effects. In the context of orthopaedic care, where patients may be recovering from joint replacements or fractures, preventing falls is paramount to avoid exacerbating existing injuries or causing new ones.

Mike tells of how Ward 21 works with holistic assessments of older people, assessing their possibilities of fall risks whilst looking at the patient’s bone health, cognition, and frailty score. Alongside these pre-emptive assessments, Dr Mike Wilkinson explains that polypharmacy is also a significant factor to consider when assessing a patient.

What is polypharmacy?

Polypharmacy refers to the regular use of at least five or more medications, which is more prevalent among older adults and younger at-risk populations. When multiple drugs are prescribed for various conditions, it increases the risk of adverse medical outcomes. Therefore, assessing whether the combination of medications is correct for the patient is crucial. Polypharmacy becomes even more critical while considering good prescribing, as some medications can contribute to falls and fractures. A crucial aspect of good prescribing is achieving the best balance of drugs and benefits versus their adverse effects.

So, how do all these different medical work strands equate to a patient’s stay in Ward 21 at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital? We don’t have to look very far to find out how well Gateshead Health is performing against the best practice criteria areas, thanks to the National Hip Fracture Database.

Gateshead Health has recently achieved a score of 91.4% across the seven best practice criteria areas, and the QE hospital ranks in the top three in the whole country via the National Hip Fracture Database, an average that the department regularly achieves.

Doctor Mike Wilkinson said:

We achieved our outcomes thanks to our process of dedicated healthcare professionals working together from different fields, including pharmacists, nurses, physicians, and allied health staff, working together to achieve our shared goal. Identifying risks, implementing preventive measures, and responding effectively to adverse events is paramount. We have built a team that is based on good teamwork and dedication to outstanding medical care. I am incredibly proud of the Trauma and Orthopaedics Ward 21, its people, and what it consistently achieves.

Specialist Doctor Mike Wilkinson

The Trauma and Orthopaedics Ward 21 at Gateshead Health has formed a team committed to providing exceptional medical care through effective teamwork. By bringing together healthcare professionals from different disciplines, they have consistently achieved remarkable outcomes for their patients.