As many as eight out of ten operations can now take place in local community hospitals, health centres or GP practices, rather than in large hospitals, according to a new Department of Health (DH) report.
The report says that the introduction of more lasers and keyhole surgery has led to a quicker recovery for patients and less risk of infection. This means that procedures, such as hernia operations, that previously required long stays in hospital can now be carried out in a day in more local settings.
Meanwhile, the development of new drugs has made some surgery, such as the treatment of stomach ulcers, completely unnecessary.
The report, by Professor Sir Ara Darzi, the DH's national adviser on surgery, states that 80% of all surgery should be carried out locally, with the remaining 20% – the more complex cases – taking place at specialist centres.
Professor Darzi says that as surgery has improved, it has also become more specialised, and specialist centres ensure that complex cases can be treated by the most skilled surgical teams.