Health leaders said today that the NHS in Gloucestershire is taking the necessary and next steps in responding to the unfolding Covid-19 situation.
This includes putting in place additional measures to help delay the spread of the virus, ensure the safety of patients and staff and maintain essential health services for those that will continue to need them.
Speaking on behalf of the NHS in Gloucestershire, Urgent Care Lead at NHS Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group and local GP, Dr Jeremy Welch said:
“The NHS has been planning extensively over recent weeks. We want to be open and honest with the public in Gloucestershire about the responsible steps we are taking with patient care and safety at the centre of our decisions.
As the Chief Medical Officer has said, as the coronavirus situation develops, routine services will come under pressure, but the NHS is adapting to ensure essential services continue.”
Some of the advice and steps being taken in Gloucestershire to protect patients and staff and maintain essential services include:
- If you have symptoms of coronavirus, do not book an appointment or visit a GP surgery or hospital. Follow the specific public health advice (see box below) and use NHS 111 online if your symptoms worsen
- Other patients should continue to contact their GP surgery if they need medical help. GP surgeries will initially assess patients over the phone or online to make sure they are cared for by the right person, in the right place for their illness
- There will be far fewer face to face consultations to ensure the safety of patients and staff, but there will be significantly more telephone, on-line and video consultations
- Some routine GP surgery and hospital appointments are being cancelled as the situation develops, but individual patients will be contacted if this affects them
- GP surgeries will be working much more closely together to ensure that they can continue to provide essential services to patients
- A number of ‘community hubs’ have been set up in health centres and surgeries across the county to support patients who need face to face medical support and may have possible symptoms of coronavirus. Patients will only access the hubs after going through NHS 111 and/or initial telephone and video assessment by their GP
- Gloucestershire Health and Care NHS Foundation Trust has contacted patients who receive regular care at home to let them know that the Trust may need to cover their visits/treatment using alternative qualified staff or in different ways, such as by telephone
- Essential community services are being prioritised, meaning some non-urgent work is being postponed and new referrals to some services have been suspended
- Three of the county’s Minor Injury and Illness Units (MIIUs) – Dilke (Cinderford), The Vale (Dursley) and Tewkesbury – are closing temporarily, so that staff can be re-deployed to where they are most needed
- Group sessions, such as those for the Managing Memory service, Let’s Talk and baby hubs are being stood down temporarily in a planned way
- Visiting restrictions have been put in place in hospitals and five mental health and learning disability inpatient units (check Trust websites for details)
- Patients should attend appointments at Gloucestershire Royal Hospital, Cheltenham General Hospital and Stroud Maternity Hospital unless they are contacted directly to advise them otherwise or if they have symptoms which require them to self-isolate. If patients are unable to attend an appointment due to self isolation they should contact the hospital through usual routes for advice
- Following national guidance, Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust is working to reduce the number of planned operations by 15 April. These staff, equipment and facilities will be prioritised to provide vital life and limb saving operations such as cancer treatments
- The Trust has reduced the number of face to face hospital outpatient appointments in favour of video conferencing and phone calls. Arrangements are in place for patients who need to be seen face to face or need to access diagnostics as part of their appointment
- Cancer two-week wait – some of the Trust’s services are now making initial assessments of patients’ symptoms by telephone. This allows the Trust to decide which patients can be booked for tests without any further appointment and which need to be seen face to face
- Isolation wards have been set up at Gloucestershire Royal Hospital and Cheltenham General Hospital for people who are unwell and have suspected or confirmed coronavirus. The wards have teams of highly experienced doctors, nurses and other staff appropriately trained and equipped to provide care effectively.
The NHS is also reinforcing the advice to the public on help to stop the spread and what to do if they have symptoms of coronavirus:
- Everyone should remain vigilant and carry on washing hands often with soap and follow related hygiene advice.
- For general advice on coronavirus, check www.nhs.uk/coronavirus
- If you have a new, persistent cough or a high temperature (37.8 degrees or higher), you and anyone you live with must self isolate to protect others and stop the spread. Check www.nhs.uk/coronavirus for details.
- If your symptoms worsen during home isolation, use NHS 111 online. If you have no internet access, you should call NHS 111.
- Do not visit your Pharmacy, GP surgery or hospital.
Commenting on general access to health services, Dr Welch added:
“For wider healthcare, we are appealing to everyone to only use NHS services, like GP surgeries and hospitals, when they really need to. This includes keeping A&E clear for life threatening emergencies. With the public’s support, our doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals can use their time to best effect caring for those who most need our help. Gloucestershire residents have a fine tradition for pulling together when times get tough and we will need this collective spirit more than ever in the coming weeks.”
Local care and service advice is available from www.asapglos.nhs.uk and the ASAP Glos NHS App. The NHS is also supporting public health in promoting the hand washing and hygiene messages.