As cases of Covid-19 continue to rise across the South-East, including Surrey, our hospitals are very busy and we expect that to continue over the coming weeks. As a result, the local NHS has been working as a system to put measures in place that will enable us to prioritise how we provide care, focusing on those patients who are critically ill.
Dr Claire Fuller, Senior Responsible Officer for Surrey Heartlands explains more: “Due to the unprecedented impact of Covid-19 on local NHS services, we are doing all we can as a health and care system, to increase capacity. This includes opening more beds and redeploying staff to support our Covid-19 response, wherever we can.
However, to ensure we keep vital NHS services running we recognise that this isn’t enough and we now need to prioritise how we provide some care services to our community. This is not a decision we have taken lightly but we must focus our efforts on those who are critically ill and need the most urgent care. This means we have now postponed many routine and non-urgent elective procedures and operations to focus on urgent and cancer care, including caring for those with Covid-19.”
These new measures include:
- Opening up additional beds within our acute and community hospitals to help create additional capacity for people who need to be admitted. This includes plans to open additional beds at the NHS Seacole Centre.
- Prioritising urgent and cancer care over non-urgent care. This has meant postponing some routine planned elective procedures and non-urgent operations to help create additional bed capacity and free up staff to support our Covid-19 response.
- Moving to virtual (telephone and online) appointments for many outpatient services to reduce the number of people travelling to hospitals and other sites to reduce transmission.
- Working together as a system, across health and social care, to discharge people from hospitals as soon as they are well enough to leave, with the right support and the right package of care.
- Working with our independent sector partners (such as private hospitals) to identify any additional bed capacity and any clinical staff that could be deployed to other sites if needed.
- Temporarily suspending home birth services due to ongoing pressures on the ambulance service which means SECAMB are unable to guarantee a timely ambulance response to those women choosing to plan their birth at home or in a stand-alone midwifery unit should they experience an emergency.
Importantly, patients who have booked appointments should still attend; if we need to reschedule an appointment patients will be contacted directly. For those who do need urgent care, we would urge people to contact NHS 111 first, either online via www.nhs.uk or by calling 111; please keep A&E for emergencies only.
Dr Fuller continues: “I would like to thank all our staff and partners across Surrey Heartlands, for everything they are doing at what remains a challenging and exceptionally busy time. The measures we have put in place will allow us to care for those who need the most urgent help over the next few weeks; we will of course keep the situation under constant review so we can restore these non-urgent services as soon as possible. In the meantime, NHS services are available if you really need us; spotting problems early is vital, especially cancers, and GPs continue to refer patients who need urgent treatment to hospitals as normal. And if you do have a booked appointment it’s really important that you attend.
Finally, we would like to thank the public for their support and to remind people to follow the national guidance to reduce the spread of Covid-19; this is critical in helping to protect our families, keep frontline services running and save lives. The pressure will stay on the NHS as long as the infection rates stay high.”
Ahead of the New Year bank holiday, John De Vos, Clinical Lead for Royal Surrey’s Covid isolation unit added: “Everyone please stay safe and please, please follow the rules they are there for a reason. We are seeing this increase in numbers and we need to all work together to try and get that number down and prevent the spread of Covid further. Together we can do this. It’s been a very, very tough year but we’ll get through this and we’re continuing to be here for you.”
He went on to explain how people can support their local NHS at this time, saying: “If you feel unwell and you feel like you maybe need to come to hospital please contact NHS 111 (online via www.nhs.uk or by calling 111) they can give you the right advice. This will help us from overcrowding our Emergency Department and the hospital. Of course, if you feel acutely unwell you should continue to attend the hospital or ring 999.”
As a reminder, if you or someone in your household show symptoms of the virus, or are contacted by NHS Test and Trace, please self-isolate straight away. If you have symptoms of Covid-19 you can book a test by calling 119. NHS services are still available if you need us. Spotting problems early is vital, especially cancers. GPs are continuing to refer patients who need treatment to hospitals as normal.