IT was a tricky operation – but they are no strangers to that at Southampton General Hospital.

Even so it took the experts most of the weekend to put in place a new elderly care clinic that will help ease waiting times in the accident and emergency department.

The portable buildings that will house the new unit had to be lifted one-by-one by a crane over the hospital’s roof to their new home on the Tremona Road site, a process that began on Saturday morning.

The aim is to reduce the number of elderly patients to the emergency department by three a day, by directing them to the clinic where elderly care consultants will be on hand to offer specialist care immediately.

It has been made possible thanks to a £1.6 million grant from the Government’s Winter Resilience Fund – which had initially sent no money in Southampton’s direction.

Hospital bosses admit that there are still challenges ahead, but this and a raft of other measures being brought in over the next few months will help to ensure the national target of treating 95 per cent of casualty patients within four hours is hit.

Improvements As reported in Saturday’s Daily Echo, Southampton General Hospital’s accident and emergency department has started 2014 on a positive note.

For the first time in recent years it has seen a reduction in the number of patients through the doors – down by half a per cent compared to usually being up by as much as seven per cent – described as a “radical change” for the department.

The change in fortune has been further boosted by the announcement that health watchdog Monitor has closed its investigation into its failings to hit the four-hour target.

University Hospital Southampton Trust chief operating officer Jane Hayward told the Daily Echo: “We have had a bit of a turnaround since Christmas and seen a reduction in the number of breaches of the four-hour target.

“We are only just under the 95 per cent target, which is the best start to the year Southampton General Hospital has had for many years.”