THE first phase of Frimley Park Hospital's planned £8 million "Trailblazer" Diagnostic and Treatment Centre (DTC) has begun.

A prefabricated building, containing an operating theatre and other treatment rooms, was lifted into the hospital in sections by an 80ft mobile crane. After final fitting out and connection to mains services, the building is expected to be fully functioning from later this month to give much needed extra day surgery and treatment capacity for orthopaedics and other specialities.

The DTC is part of the government's drive to cut waiting lists and reduce the time patients have to wait for non-urgent operations. The extra capacity needed to do this will be provided in three phases.

In the first phase alone, it is expected that nearly 1,000 more operations will be carried out. Moving day case operations to the new day theatre will also free capacity in the hospital's main theatres for more serious and urgent cases.

To accommodate the extra day case patients there will be eight more 23-hour beds and eight more recovery beds.

In phase two of the DTC plan, a new building at the front of the hospital will have two more operating theatres for day cases and a range of outpatient consulting rooms - mainly for ophthalmology.

In phase three of the plan the consulting rooms in the main hospital, now being used to treat ophthalmology patients, will be made available to doctors in other specialities and the theatre time created by the transfer of ophthalmology to the new building will be used to help other departments - like orthopaedics - to cut their waiting times.

The government says the new Diagnosis and Treatment Centres will make a massive contribution to the rapid and large-scale capacity increase required in the NHS. They will bring about new ways of delivering services, setting new standards of value for money, clinical productivity and patient convenience and choice.