More hospital services are to resume for some local people whose operations and appointments were put on hold because of the coronavirus.
With the Covid-19 pressure on Frimley Health NHS Foundation Trust gradually reducing, Trust leaders have been planning to increase the number of procedures it provides.
Special arrangements have been made so that more outpatient, diagnostic, endoscopy and surgical services can be provided. Priority will need to be given to the most urgent work, for example cancer diagnoses and treatments.
Over the past 10 weeks health and care organisations across the Frimley Health and Care network – from Slough in the north to Farnham in the south – have rapidly adapted services in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
While coronavirus-related hospitalisations have fallen from last month’s peak, Covid-19 continues to circulate in the community and create additional pressure for hospital services, and the NHS continues to operate at the highest national level of incident response.
Now health and care leaders are working to remain on an emergency footing while adapting to start to offer a wider range of services to protect and care for all local people.
Dr Timothy Ho, medical director at Frimley Health NHS Foundation Trust, said: “I am so proud of how everyone across the whole health and care sector in our community has pulled together effectively to face the Covid-19 pandemic while continuing to provide other vital care when it has been needed.
“We can now start to focus on those people most in need whose care has been put on hold while we responded to the immediate pandemic threat. At the same time, we should remember Covid-19 remains prevalent and we must stay alert to a rise in infection rates in our community.”
With Covid-19 widespread in the community for the foreseeable future, services are having to be delivered in different ways. Extra safety measures are being put in place to reduce risks, such as social distancing, video consultations and testing for staff and patients.
Much of the care will be delivered at different locations to before in order to maintain the necessary infection control.
Emergency services have remained open for everyone throughout and people should continue to access them as usual whenever they need them. Safeguards, including separate zones for confirmed or suspected Covid patients and non-Covid patients within A&E and other clinical areas, will continue.
Part of Frimley Health’s Day Surgery service will reopen as a non-Covid planned surgical area, initially for some patients with gastro-intestinal and renal cancer, and for urgent vascular surgery patients. Heatherwood Hospital in Ascot will open as a non-Covid site for planned surgery, with patients prioritised on medical need. Endoscopy is also starting at Heatherwood and at Spire Clare Park Hospital, near Farnham.
Other urgent diagnostic procedures, such as radiology, will be provided away from busy hospital sites where possible. Outpatient activity will also be increased, with much of it looking very different from a few months ago as processes are streamlined and direct contact is minimised. For example there will be more video consultations with GPs and hospital consultants, virtual clinics and some patients will go straight to test rather than see a specialist.
Hospitals, GPs and community services will continue to work together to design services that are safe and accessible, for example by reconfiguring waiting areas, delivering care across different sites, asking patients to remain in their cars until called and shielding more vulnerable patients.
The type and scale of healthcare services available may have to be reconsidered in the event of increased demand due to Covid-19.