Bowel cancer is the third deadliest cancer killer of men and women in the UK.

However, at University Hospital Southampton, patients with colon cancer are getting some of the best care in the country with a survival rate better than most other colon cancer units in the UK.

Nationally, 3.2% of patients die within a month after surgery whereas in Southampton this rate is reduced to 0.8%, making UHS four times safer than the national average.

Emergency surgeons at UHS set up an acute surgery service in 2013 to provide consultant-delivered care to patients traditionally seen by junior surgeons. This includes those patients who have the biggest risk of mortality in the Trust.

Our patients are more than 99% likely to survive curative bowel cancer surgery and leave hospital alive and well, with 86% of those patients still alive two years later. By engaging senior clinicians and our intensive care unit in high risk cases, we are ensuring good outcomes.

It’s impressive to also look at how many additional lives have been saved over this time. We do this with a variable life adjustment display (VLAD) chart.

VLAD score

If the acute surgery service was performing as expected, the green line would run flat along the bottom of the graph. Every upstroke represents a patient that survived against the odds, every down stroke is a patient that died unexpectedly and a horizontal line is a patient whose outcome was as expected.

We think this chart displays some powerful data and shows that having an emergency laparotomy (surgery in the abdominal area) at UHS is overwhelmingly safe.

Cancer in the liver or pancreas can be difficult to treat effectively and the diagnosis can be devastating to patients and their families.

University Hospital Southampton is the only place in the UK where radiotherapy can be delivered at the same time as surgery. This is being used across different types of cancer and is helping patients get their treatment quicker.

The intraoperative radiotherapy machine that allows us to do this was funded by Planets; a charity created by Southampton surgeons and now led by former patients. It is a fantastic example of how patients can have a positive impact on the services we provide and why it is great for us to give them access to results and outcomes from the department.

See also