Isolation wards have been set up at Gloucestershire’s two main hospital sites for people with coronavirus symptoms.
These are some of the dozen key preparations drawn up by the local NHS to manage the unfolding situation of the coronavirus in Gloucestershire.
Other plans include some patients who need care in their home to receive a letter telling them that visits may be done in different ways or using alternative qualified staff.
There are also new restricted visiting rules to seeing patients in Gloucesrtershire Royal Hospital and Cheltenham General Hospital.
There are currently 29 reported cases of coronavirus in Gloucestershire.
The advice and steps being taken in Gloucestershire by the NHS includes:
If you have symptoms of coronavirus, do not book an appointment or visit a GP surgery or hospital. Follow the specific public health advice 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 will be 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.
Gloucestershire Health and Care NHS Foundation Trust is writing to some 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. Patients, carers and families are being asked for their thoughts.
Essential community services are being prioritised, meaning some non-urgent work will be postponed.
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. However, due to cancellations some of these sessions are being stopped earlier than others.
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 on what to do.
Following national guidance, Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust is reviewing plans for routine operations over the coming weeks, but at this point, planned operations are continuing as normal.
The Trust is rapidly accelerating alternative ways of providing hospital outpatient appointments, however based on the care required, some patients will still need to attend in person. If patients have not been contacted directly by the team that manages their care to make other arrangements at this point, they should plan to attend as normal.
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.
Patients currently being treated for cancer should still attend their your appointments as usual unless the NHS contacts you. Radiotherapy and chemotherapy will continue to be provided in the normal way.
Based on research, the local NHS say there is currently no evidence to suggest that coronavirus poses a greater risk if you are pregnant than it does to other healthy people.
All antenatal appointments will continue at GP surgeries as currently planned. All women will have a telephone call prior to this to ensure they are not symptomatic and can attend.
Women are also being asked to attend appointments alone at the moment.
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 precautionary and 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.
“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.”