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Patients encouraged to attend appointments

Clinical experts at The Princess Alexandra Hospital NHS Trust (PAHT), in partnership with the Rivers Hospital, are encouraging patients to attend their appointments so that their care can continue.

In response to the national guidance issued regarding coronavirus (COVID-19), over the last few months, our staff have worked extremely hard to provide the majority of outpatient appointments virtually (not face-to-face), with telephone and video clinics for our patients.

All urgent face-to-face appointments, treatment and procedures have continued during this time.

We have transformed the way we provide care to ensure the safety of our patients and staff.

After a very challenging period for the hospital and local community, the number of patients requiring hospital treatment for coronavirus (COVID-19) has significantly decreased in recent months. We are now recommencing face-to-face appointments across all specialities that cannot be carried out virtually – a thorough checklist and assessment process is in place to identify which patients these appointments are suitable for.

All patients are asked a series of questions to indicate if they have symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) on arrival. Additionally, we are following all social distancing guidance. This means that waiting room access is controlled with protective screens at many reception points. Services which have previously been accessed on a ‘walk-in’ basis have been replaced by more ‘appointment based’ services, with single appointment times and social distancing in the waiting areas. Patients will receive temperature checks when attending for all face-to-face appointments in the outpatients’ department.

Staff and patients, where appropriate, across all services are wearing personal protective equipment (PPE). This includes face coverings for those coming to hospital, in line with national guidance. Patients are asked to bring a face mask or covering with them when attending hospital.

The wearing of appropriate PPE also includes circumstances where patients will have close contact with healthcare professionals during an appointment, such as physiotherapy sessions or diagnostic tests and scans. Patients will be given specific advice regarding this before their appointment and masks will be provided where necessary.

Any staff member who develops symptoms will continue to follow all guidance to self-isolate. Patients are also asked to self-isolate before coming into hospital, where appropriate, and will be given full details ahead of their appointment.

Planned, non-emergency operations and procedures are carried out at the Rivers Hospital in Sawbridgeworth. This is separate from The Princess Alexandra Hospital in Harlow, where emergency care is provided. The Rivers Hospital is ‘COVID-19 minimised’ – this means that staff are tested bi-weekly for COVID-19.

Where possible patients are asked to self-isolate for 14 days prior to surgery with a 72 hour pre-operative swab, in particular patients that are higher risk e.g. diabetics and patients with respiratory conditions. Where this is not possible, patients are asked to adhere to strict social distancing and hand hygiene for 11 days and are tested for COVID-19 72 hours before surgery, with strict isolation for the remaining 72 hours. Patients are urged to please ensure that they adhere to this and carefully consider their arrangements to avoid unnecessary late notice cancellations, so that unwanted appointments can be offered to others. Also, patients entering the site for appointments must wear a face mask, are provided with hand gel and are screened for symptoms on arrival. Visitors are restricted to ensure patients are protected during their admission.

The Princess Alexandra Hospital teams are continuing to offer virtual appointments where possible and are building on these significant advances to ensure an efficient and high quality experience for our patients.

Visiting to the hospital is to remain suspended until further notice to protect patients and staff.

The only exceptional circumstances where an immediate family member or carer can visit are:

  • The patient they wish to visit is receiving end-of-life care
  • They are the birthing partner accompanying a woman in labour
  • They are a parent or appropriate adult visiting their child
  • They are supporting someone with a mental health issue, who has dementia, a learning disability or autism, where not being present would cause the patient to be distressed

People who wish to visit under these circumstances are asked to contact the ward or department in advance to discuss appropriate arrangements. To keep in touch with loved ones in hospital, at PAHT we offer a Message to a Loved One and virtual visiting service. Full details are available here.

Stephanie Lawton, chief operating officer, said: “We are pleased to be able to begin a regular schedule of appointments for patients who need to see our teams face-to-face, and thank them for their understanding during recent months.

“We are aware that attending a hospital appointment may cause some patients to be concerned and I would reassure all our patients that we are prepared and have all the necessary infection prevention and patient safety measures in place.

“It is important that patients attend their appointments as their clinical needs have been prioritised and we are keen to be able to plan their ongoing care.”

Inpatient comment:

The staff and care have been excellent. They have made sure I have felt comfortable, secure and safe. They are wonderful and exemplary in their commitment.