24th May 2023
5 minute read
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The path to qualification: NHS trainee ophthalmologist’s fast-paced placement boosts his skillset, as he looks ahead to managing his own busy theatre

NHS trainee ophthalmologist Dr Philip Wright, from Birmingham, recently completed a six-month training placement with SpaMedica, and has credited the experience as boosting his confidence and skillset as he progresses in his career. Currently at grade ST3, Philip commenced his ophthalmology training in 2020 and joined Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham in August 2022.

Philip is one of many NHS trainees accessing facilities provided by SpaMedica, the UK’s largest NHS cataract surgery provider. Alongside placements, the company’s training offer includes four regional suites, each featuring a digital dry lab equipped with the latest world-class technology, as well as a range of CPD resources, helping UK ophthalmologists boost their expertise and knowledge.

“Before my placement, I’d completed 60 cataract surgeries in total,” Philip says. “During my SpaMedica training, I worked on 190 cases in six months; I was operating one full day every week.

“The higher case volume and excellent supervision and training from my clinical supervisor, Kenan Damer, meant my surgical skills improved rapidly during my time there, allowing me to operate on all types of cataracts independently.

“Mr Damer was incredibly supportive, kind and patient. He gave fantastic constructive feedback which was even more useful when I could implement it on the next cases on the same day.

“The whole team around me was brilliant and I was particularly impressed with the way they looked after patients. Everyone would pitch in, going above and beyond to help patients get comfortable, hold their hands, reassure them – ensuring they felt calm, settled and looked after throughout their experience.

“It was such a friendly, relaxed, and welcoming environment for me as a trainee. My confidence has grown massively, and I’m pleased with my surgery outcomes. I now feel able to approach any cataract case with my current skillset and adapt to the case appropriately and look forward to managing my own busy theatre list in the future.”

Philip’s NHS supervisor, Miss Ruchika Batra, a consultant in Neuro-ophthalmology at University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust, added: “We currently have two trainees completing cataract rotations at SpaMedica and they have been delighted with their experience. It was wonderful to hear Dr Wright speak so positively about his time there too. Based on the feedback I’ve heard from the trainees I supervise; I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend SpaMedica to other trainees and deaneries. Placements have been easy to set up and the team are always very helpful and supportive, both in terms of facilitating site visits and supporting with paperwork.”

During his time at SpaMedica, Dr Wright’s PCR rate was 0.7% – well below the national benchmark of 1.1% – and 100% of his patients achieved a visual acuity score of 6/12 or better, regaining driving standard vision after surgery.

Dr Alex Silvester, Medical Director, SpaMedica said: “We’re really proud to share our resources and knowledge to support future ophthalmologists like Philip and it’s fantastic to hear that he found his placement so valuable. He was a great fit with the team and performed well. His surgical skills have gone from strength to strength during his time with us and I have no doubt he has a very bright future ahead of him.”

SpaMedica is also offering training placements at its hospitals in Skelmersdale, Wolverhampton, Oldham, Widnes, Stockton-on-Tees and Newcastle-under-Lyme, where trainees have been given a warm welcome by patients and staff.

Michelle Thornhill, Senior Healthcare Technician at SpaMedica Skelmersdale, said: “Working in theatre alongside trainees, it’s fantastic to see their confidence and their skills increase. I think many are initially amazed by the efficiency and the volume of operations we carry out. Patients are generally very positive too, they say ‘we all have to start somewhere!’. The majority are happy to be treated by a trainee knowing there is always an experienced consultant on hand too.”

SpaMedica’s training provision

Regional training suites
SpaMedica’s first regional training suite opened in September 2020 in Widnes. Similar facilities launched in Wokingham, Stockton and Wolverhampton in 2021 – all delivering training in digital dry labs using the latest ophthalmic technology, with the aim of providing ‘confidence and capability in surgery’ for ST1 to ST7 doctors.

Two of the hospitals with training suites – SpaMedica Widnes and SpaMedica Stockton – have been graded as ‘Outstanding’ by industry regulator the Care Quality Commission (CQC), with inspectors praising the hospitals’ dry lab facilities in their reports.

The training suites benefit other nearby hospitals too. For example, surgeons at SpaMedica Preston – which also received an ‘Outstanding’ rating in August 2022 – are able to make use of SpaMedica Widnes’ facilities, with CQC inspectors noting the resource is currently the only one of its kind in the North West.

The training suites use synthetic model eyes that replicate the feel, texture and characteristics of a human eye with cataracts, along with surgical microscopes, all the instruments used in surgery and phacoemulsification machines.

The dry lab experience enables trainees to develop microsurgical motor skills, hand-eye coordination and microscope controls, and to practice all aspects of cataract surgery.

All individual surgical training is recorded on iPads, and these recordings can be saved and reviewed with other doctors and mentors, as well as logged onto training records.

In addition to the four regional suites, two smaller ‘pop-up’ dry labs opened in September 2022 in Birmingham and Poole, offering access to training for those in the Midlands and the South.

Dr Alex Silvester explained: “Practising cataract surgery techniques in a simulated, but very realistic theatre environment, supports junior doctors in developing the surgical skills they need, assisting them in becoming safer and more productive in the operating theatre. We’re proud to be able to offer this training to doctors across the UK, in addition to the Royal College of Ophthalmologists’ training programme.”

CPD training
SpaMedica also shares ophthalmic knowledge and expertise through its CPD events. It launched its Study programme in 2014, which includes hosting regular CPD webinars and live sessions, with experienced consultant ophthalmologists delivering educational programmes.

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