CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Now our hospitals face surgery backlog

Patients face new self-isolation rules before procedures

22 May, 2020 — By Tom Foot

Figures showed that daily attendances to the Whittington A&E have fallen by more than 60 per cent during the crisis

PATIENTS returning to hospital for planned surgery will only be admitted if they have self-isolated for a fortnight before and “remain asymptomatic”.

NHS chiefs have been given new guidance on how to safely clear a backlog of thousands of appointments that had to be cancelled during the coronavirus crisis.

Despite encouraging statistics in recent weeks – for example, there have been no Covid-related deaths in the Whittington for the past seven days – patients are still choosing to stay away.

Attendance figures at all of Camden patients’ three main hospitals have plummeted and show no sign of returning to normal levels.

The Whittington’s chief executive Siobhan Harrington told the New Journal: “We are working together in North Central London to look at how we can restart elective surgery.  We are all concerned that people are fearful. But the hospital is safe as possible. If people need healthcare they should be coming in. Go to your GP and get an appointment.”

Figures showed that daily attendances to the Whittington A&E have fallen by more than 60 per cent during the crisis.

UCLH reported this week similar stark decrease in its A&E attendances while oncologists have raised concerns about the lasting impact of delays to cancer care referrals.

Royal Free experts have made specific warnings that patients with early heart attack symptoms are arriving at hospital after it is too late.

Ms Harrington said there were major safety changes including new routes and entrance plans to ensure patients did not spread disease around the hospital.

Visiting has been stopped in most wards, curtains in A&E cubicles have been replaced with doors and safety screens have been installed at tills in the restaurants, pharmacy and shop.

Anyone arriving at A&E is tested and positive and negative patients are put into separate wards.  More than 20,000 outpatients appointments have been switched to the telephone or video calls.

Ms Harrington said: “We have come through the first wave and, overall, the Whittington – except for one week where it was really difficult – has performed well. Our staff have been amazing.  “The second wave – I think if I am being totally honest, people just don’t know if it’s going to happen.”

Looking back, she praised her staff for rising to the “extraordinary challenge”, adding: “We had community staff – speech and language staff – working in our ITU [Intensive Treatment Unit]. Everyone has come together, it has just been amazing.” Letters, page 27

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