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Ysbyty Gwynedd launch online virtual joint replacement programme to prepare patients for surgery


Patients awaiting hip and knee replacements are now offered an opportunity to attend a Virtual Joint School to learn more about and prepare for surgery.

Joint School is a service specifically for people who are about to undergo a hip or knee replacement. It focuses on patient education and allows patients and their families to know what to expect through the various steps they will experience, from preparing for admission through to recovery at home.

The concept of an online education programme to complement the face-to-face sessions was under development before the current pandemic and was accelerated in partnership with Redmoore ELC to accommodate patients and their family/carers who cannot now attend Joint School in advance of their surgery, due to social distancing regulations around COVID-19. 

To ensure patients still receive this important service a multi-disciplinary team created a series of YouTube videos, which include information on preparing for surgery, anaesthesia, what to expect when they come into hospital, pain management, surgery, postoperative physiotherapy and how to get dressed and return to daily activities safely.

Patients who are due for surgery are invited to the virtual interactive joint school sessions and are able to view the online videos prior to these. During the sessions they are able to discuss any issues with the multi-disciplinary team and they are also joined by previous patients who are able to share their experience.

One of those patients is Mike Tod who had a full knee replacement in November 2020 as a day case procedure at Ysbyty Gwynedd.

He said: “The virtual joint school is a great idea as it means that every person who is to have a joint replacement is able to attend as long as they have access to a computer and the internet.

“Having been a guest speaker in one of the sessions I can see how it gives people the chance to ask questions about their procedure and what to expect. It also means that their family can be involved and ask questions they wish to ask around recovery at home and medications.

“As well as convenience of not needing to travel by doing this from your own home is also helping the planet by reducing carbon emissions.”

These sessions are led by Sharon Williams, a nurse who works on Ysbyty Gwynedd’s Orthopaedic Ward, and who was initially nervous to start the virtual sessions.

She said: “We have been used to carrying out our Joint School sessions face-to-face for many years; so it was a big change when we were asked to do these virtually.

“Personally I was very nervous as my technical skills were practically non-existent! However, I gave it a go and very grateful to my colleagues who gave me all the support to get my confidence up to hold the sessions online.

“I was sceptical about how the elderly population would accept this new way of carrying out the service but it was a pleasant surprise to see how many are able to join online and join us in this new venture.

“It is great to have their positive feedback and see them relaxed in their own home and not have to worry about travelling or finding a space to park at the hospital.”

Christine Williams, who recently underwent a total knee replacement, has praised the online resources available prior to surgery.

She said: “I thoroughly enjoyed the virtual Joint School session, it was very informative and I watched the videos online prior which were very helpful to see what to expect when I came into hospital.

“It was great to have different members of the clinical team on the call who could answer all our questions as well as a previous patient who shared their experience of going through the surgery and what we could expect.”

The online service has also been shortlisted for two awards at this year’s national Health Service Journal Awards held on Thursday, 24 March 2022.

Mr Muthu Ganapathi, Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon at Ysbyty Gwynedd, who has pioneered the Virtual Joint School, said he is proud of the team for establishing this service for their patients.

He said: “With the support of Welsh Government Group Clinic initiative, we have created a hybrid model which is the first of a kind in Wales for pre-operative education for hip and knee arthroplasty patients.

“As we are just slowly restarting hip and knee arthroplasty although in a limited manner, we have been inviting patients to the joint school.

“The feedback from the patients have been extremely positive.

“They appreciate the fact that they did not have to travel long distances along with their carer to attend the joint school and find it much easier to join the discussions from the comforts of their home.

“Although we were initially concerned whether the online format will work, we found that majority of the patients have been able to watch the videos and also attend the online virtual group clinic with or without their carer support.”

The Health Board now plans to roll this service out across the other two main hospitals in the near future.