Some services that were postponed due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic will be restored across University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust (UHMBT) over the coming weeks and months as the Trust moves into the second phase of its coronavirus response.
Teams across the Trust have been working hard to respond to the coronavirus pandemic and ensure the safety and quality of services for all patients. Along with the rest of the NHS, the number one priority for the last few months has been ensuring that all those who need urgent care – not just those with coronavirus – have been able to get it when they need it.
To allow this to happen and to help reduce the spread of the virus, some non-urgent appointments and surgeries were postponed and other appointments were delivered in a different way such as via telephone or video clinics.
The Trust is now in the position to be able to restore some of the services that were changed or postponed whilst teams were focused on dealing with the outbreak.
Kate Maynard, Interim Chief Operating Officer, UHMBT, said: “Patients across the country and here in Morecambe Bay have been incredibly understanding about having to wait longer for their appointment and we can’t thank them enough for their support up to this point.
“We don’t want people waiting any longer than they need to so we are now looking at how we can gradually increase some important services but only where this can be done safely. Rather than just restoring all the services in one go, we have to do it in a planned and phased way to ensure we have effective plans in place to keep everyone safe, such as having the right PPE and staffing and the ability to adhere to social distancing and handwashing guidance.”
The Trust has already started to see some of the patients awaiting urgent elective procedures, e.g. for suspected or confirmed cancer, and from next week, is looking to restore some clinical investigations such as endoscopy, colposcopy and some bowel screening. The aim is to start seeing patients who have been waiting for their elective procedures towards the end of this month and into early July.
Telephone and video clinics will continue wherever possible to prevent people making unnecessary trips to hospitals.
Clinicians across the Trust are currently reviewing relevant patients awaiting an appointment against national guidance to allow them to determine which patients should be offered an appointment now and who can be deferred to a later date. The plans are also being produced in partnership with the Healthier Lancashire and South Cumbria Integrated Care System to ensure all patients in the area have a fair and equal access to care.
The Trust has put measures into place to support the safety of staff, patients and visitors who need to attend its hospitals and community settings, including:
- Ensuring patients with suspected or confirmed cases of coronavirus will continue to be cared for on designated wards across the Trust
- Patients awaiting planned surgery will be required to self-isolate for 14 days prior to coming into hospital and will be tested for coronavirus before their procedure goes ahead in line with the Trust’s policy to test all patients on admission or before surgery
- Hand washing facilities and hand gel are available at all of the Trust’s main hospitals and community settings
- Cleaning schedules of public areas have been increased
- Relevant wards have been reviewed to ensure there is at least 2m between the beds to allow for social distancing
- Testing of symptomatic staff and family will continue as per current guidelines, and additional capacity is in place to allow routine testing of staff in frontline roles showing no symptoms (asymptomatic) will support infection prevention and control measures
- Access to antibody testing is also available to Trust staff and so far, over 5,000 members of staff have registered to take part in the initiative. This will help to build understanding and knowledge of coronavirus and inform the clinical approach
Kate, concluded: “Over the coming weeks, people waiting for treatment will be notified by the Trust if their appointments have been rescheduled or if they are being deferred to a later date. If you are invited for an appointment, please do attend. We believe the measures we are putting into place for staff and patients will help to significantly reduce the risk of transmission of coronavirus so you can be assured that it is safe for you to come to hospital.
“Patients should be aware that they may be offered their appointment in a different area of the hospitals or at another location in our area. This will not only help us to see patients quicker but it will also allow us keep the risk of spreading the virus as low as possible.
“Although we are starting to restore some services, it doesn’t mean that the fight against coronavirus is over. We coped really well with the initial surge in admissions, which wasn’t as severe as the national modelling originally predicted because people listened to the advice and stayed at home.
“However, we are still treating patients with the virus and we have lost a large number of people from our local community so far. The virus is still circulating and we expect that we will continue to see new cases over the coming weeks and months so we all have to remain vigilant so we don’t put ourselves or our loved ones at greater risk.”
The Trust has produced Frequently Asked Questions to assist patients and loved ones with any queries they may have about their postponed appointments or visiting hospitals or community settings. They can be accessed on the COVID-19 information pages on the Trust’s website here – https://www.uhmb.nhs.uk/visiting-our-hospitals/covid-19-faqs