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NHS in Gloucestershire taking responsible steps to manage Covid-19 situation

Health leaders said today that the NHS in Gloucestershire is well prepared to respond to the unfolding situation and a range of possible scenarios in relation to Covid-19.

This includes putting in place additional measures to help delay the spread of the virus, ensure the safety of patients and staff and maintain essential health services for those that will continue to need them.

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.”

Some of the advice and steps being taken in Gloucestershire to protect patients and staff and maintain essential services include:

• If you have symptoms of coronavirus, do not book an appointment or visit a GP surgery or hospital. Follow the specific public health advice (see box below) 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
• Face to face consultations will continue where appropriate, 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 surgery doors will be kept open, although working arrangements will continue to change to reflect staff availability and pressures
• 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
• 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 would 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
• 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 any 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.

The NHS is also reinforcing the advice to the public on help to stop the spread and what to do if they have symptoms of coronavirus:

Everyone should remain vigilant and carry on washing hands often with soap and follow related hygiene advice.

For general advice on coronavirus, check www.nhs.uk/coronavirus

If you have a new and persistent cough or a fever (37.8 degrees or higher), you are advised to self isolate to protect others and stop the spread. Check the website above for details.

If your symptoms worsen during home isolation, use NHS 111 online. If you have no internet access, you should call NHS 111.

Do not visit your Pharmacy, GP surgery or hospital.

Commenting on general access to health services, Dr Welch added:

“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.”

Local care and service advice is available from www.asapglos.nhs.uk and the ASAP Glos NHS App.
The NHS is also supporting public health in promoting the hand washing and hygiene messages.

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