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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) in recent 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 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.

We have recommenced and continue to provide 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 Services which have previously been accessed on a ‘walk-in’ basis have been replaced by more ‘appointment based’ services, with single appointment times and social distancing in the waiting areas.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 Princess Alexandra Hospital or at the Rivers Hospital in Sawbridgeworth. The Princess Alexandra Hospital’s elective surgery areas and The Rivers Hospital are ‘COVID-19 minimised’.

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.

Our 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 patients.

In relation to the period of national lockdown for four weeks this month (November), visiting to PAHT hospitals is to remain significantly reduced until further notice. We are constantly reviewing our visitor policy to ensure our staff, patients and visitors are kept as safe as possible during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

As we manage the demands of coronavirus (COVID-19), visiting is on an exception basis as detailed below.

We currently offer COVID-secure visiting via prior arrangement to non-COVID wards. Please note that this will be at the discretion of the nurse in charge of the ward. Secure patient visiting involves one designated visitor, who is identified on admission, for each patient throughout their stay. The visiting will be during agreed time slots, with the visitor adhering to all infection prevention and control measures, including wearing appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE). The wards will have details of who is the designated visitor, as agreed by the patient.

Also, in all circumstances, an immediate family member or carer can visit if:

·       The patient you wish to visit is receiving end-of-life care

·       You are the birthing partner accompanying a woman in labour or at the anomaly scan (20-week scan) – full information about the arrangements is available here

·       You are a parent or appropriate adult visiting your child

·       You 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

Please contact the ward in advance to discuss arrangements. All staff and visitors must wear face coverings or masks, use hand gel and wash their hands regularly, and maintain social distancing (keeping two metres apart from others).

We also offer a Message to a Loved One service (email or call 01279 827262 and the Virtual Visiting service at or call 07870 391237. Full details are available here.

Stephanie Lawton, chief operating officer at The Princess Alexandra Hospital NHS Trust, said: “We would encourage all patients to be reassured that we are prepared and have all the necessary infection prevention and patient safety measures in place.

“We are committed to seeing the best outcomes for our patients’ treatment and it is important that all patients attend their appointments for 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.