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Information for hospital patients during Covid

 

Waiting for Hospital Treatment

From March 2020, the UK has been responding to the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic, which has had a major effect on NHS services. The need to create capacity to care for COVID-19 patients led to the postponement of non-emergency care to treat patients who were critically ill with the virus.

From June 2020, the NHS has been working as quickly as possible to re-introduce routine care, including diagnostic procedures and operations.  Our activity levels are now close to being back to normal, however waiting lists have grown and it will take some time before services fully recover.

If you are having treatment or waiting for treatment, we want to keep you updated so you understand why there are delays. We will also keep you informed about what to expect regarding your own care and how long you may have to wait.

Your safety is our first priority so we have robust infection control measures in place, including creating separate areas in the hospital for COVID-19 patients and those who do not have the virus; regular deep cleaning; effective use of personal protective equipment for staff, patients and visitors; testing staff and patients for COVID-19.

NHS hospitals are now as safe from Covid-19 as they can be, with strict infection controls to protect you.  There could be serious risks to your health if you miss an appointment.  If you have any questions or queries, speak to the clinician in charge of your care.

Thank you for your patience and understanding during this challenging time.

 

When will I get the treatment I need?

Our teams are working hard to ensure that patients are seen as quickly as possible.  Our activity levels are now close to being back to normal, however waiting lists have grown.

If you were on a waiting list before the COVID-19 outbreak, you will still be on a waiting list, unless we have written to you to advise you differently. GPs have continued to refer patients for hospital treatment and they have been added to hospital waiting lists.

Clinicians are going through waiting lists very carefully and patients will be seen depending on the state of their health. People with the greatest need will be seen first, followed by those who have been waiting longest. The lists will be reviewed regularly as we know some people’s conditions could deteriorate, so whereas they might not have been a priority to start with, that could change while they are waiting.

If we need to make any changes to your appointment we will try to let you know well in advance and we will try not to cancel or postpone any appointments or procedures that have been booked.

 

Why do I have to wait longer for my treatment?

Throughout the NHS, teams have adapted how they work to meet new Infection Prevention and Control requirements so services are provided in a safe environment.   We have introduced a number of additional processes to protect staff and patients:

  • We are following social distancing guidance. This means that patients are more spaced out on wards and in other hospital facilities, which reduces the number of people who can be treated at any one time.
  • We have increased infection control and deep cleaning measures. COVID-19 is highly infectious and is spread by droplets caused by coughing, sneezing and talking. In hospitals we do many procedures which release airborne droplets that can linger on surfaces for up to three days. For example, the air in theatres has to be changed between procedures, which is time-consuming and reduces the number of patients who can be treated.
  • We have clear guidance for the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) to keep staff and patients safe. We have to ensure we have enough and the right type of PPE. The time required to take PPE on and off also creates delays.
  • The number of COVID-19 patients being treated in hospital is currently very small, however hospitals need to retain some capacity to deal with an unpredictable number of COVID-19 cases in the months ahead.

In addition, there will be a small number of staff at any one time who need to self isolate. Fewer staff means we can’t look after as many patients as before, or hold as many clinics.

 

What are you doing to reduce waiting times?

Our activity levels are now close to being back to normal, however waiting lists have grown and it will take some time before services fully recover.

Local hospitals are working together to do everything they can. COVID-19 has changed the way we work and constrained our capacity to treat as many patients as before the pandemic.

Where possible, we are using video and telephone consultations, to increase the numbers of patients we can treat and also to reduce the need for patients to visit hospital.

We are also working with the independent hospital sector to send some NHS patients to local independent hospitals for tests and less complex procedures.

Hospitals are working together across Cheshire and Merseyside to maximise our resources, such as making available specialist equipment and staff. This means that patients who are prioritised may be asked to go to another hospital for quicker treatment.

 

How will we keep you informed?

We are sorry that you may have to wait longer for your treatment.

We will keep you informed and appreciate your patience and understanding during the next few weeks and months.

We will work with your GP practice to ensure that we communicate with you about your care, how long you will wait and who to contact in the event that your circumstances change.

Please sign up to our social media channels and view our website for general updates.

What is the risk of getting COVID-19 while in hospital?

We know that people are concerned about catching COVID-19 if they come into hospital for treatment.

Your safety is our first priority so we have put robust infection control measures in place.

When you come into hospital, you will be seen in a part of the hospital where there are no known COVID-19 cases. Be assured that all staff (and other patients) will be wearing appropriate PPE to keep you as safe as possible.

Hospitals are taking every measure to minimise the risk of infection. This includes training hospital staff about how to limit the spread of the virus through frequent hand-washing and social distancing; regular deep cleaning; effective use of personal protective equipment for staff, patients and visitors; testing staff and patients for COVID-19; and treating patients who have symptoms or who have tested positive for COVID-19 in separate units or areas.

 

Will I need to self-isolate for 14 days before treatment?

We know that a big concern for patients is the need to self isolate before treatment, due to the impact on jobs, income and families. This rule has led to some patients refusing treatment.

You will be given guidance ahead of your appointment on any steps you need to take. High-risk patients may need to self-isolate for 14 days. For other patients they are asked to adopt comprehensive social-distancing measures.  Your doctor will give you advice, based upon their assessment of your clinical risk and the type of procedure.

 

What if I have symptoms of COVID-19?

Before your appointment if you or anyone in your household develops coronavirus symptoms, please do not come into hospital. You must ring the booking team using the contact number on your appointment letter and your appointment will be rescheduled. This will also help us give the appointment time to someone else who needs it while you recover.

Coronavirus symptoms are:

  • high temperature
  • new, continuous cough - for more than an hour, or three or more coughing episodes in 24 hours
  • loss or change to your sense of smell or taste

Go to the NHS111 website: https://111.nhs.uk/service/covid-19

 

Will I need to take a COVID test before I come into hospital?

If you are admitted to hospital, either overnight, or for day surgery, you will be tested to see if you have COVID-19. This includes patients who do not have any symptoms.

Patients admitted in an emergency will be tested once they are in the hospital. If you have to stay more than a week in hospital, you may be tested more than once.

If you are attending hospital for an outpatient appointment or a test you will be asked questions beforehand to find out if you need to be tested for COVID-19. Your temperature may be checked before you come into the hospital.

 

Do I have to visit the hospital for an outpatient appointment?

Whether you are having a discussion about your treatment or a pre-operative assessment, this consultation may take place online or by phone, rather than face-to-face, to limit the number of people coming to hospitals. Visits to hospital will be requested only when necessary, such as when tests, examinations or surgery are required.

 

How can I minimise my risk?

There are steps you can take yourself to prepare for treatment to minimise risks.

If you are waiting for treatment, why not use this time to improve your health and adopt a healthier lifestyle? This can improve your outcomes and reduce your recovery time. For some procedures, this might also enable you to be treated as a day-case, where you can leave the hospital on the same day.

Your GP will be able to give you advice and signpost to you to support.

 

Will I need to wear personal protective equipment (PPE)?

When you are in hospital, you will be asked to wear a mask or other type of personal protective equipment (PPE) and all staff will be wearing PPE. Depending on the area in the hospital, this could be a mask, a visor or goggles, a plastic apron or full coveralls. It will most likely mean that the faces of those treating you will be covered. Please do not let this stop you communicating with staff as you normally would. If you find it difficult to hear or understand what is being said through the PPE, please make staff aware, so that they take this into account and provide alternative ways of communicating.

 

Will I be able to have visitors?

Visitors in hospitals may be restricted, to minimise the risk of infection. Hospitals encourage patients to use phone and video calls to communicate with friends and relatives during their hospital stay.  The hospital team will be able to give you up-to-date information about visiting.