17 Mar 2020, 9:52 a.m.

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 coronavirus.

Last updated: 19th March 2020

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.”

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.”

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.

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

  • restricting visiting in hospitals and 5 mental health and learning disability inpatient units
  • rapidly accelerating alternative ways of providing hospital outpatient appointments, although some patients will still need to attend in person based on the care required
  • prioritising essential community services and postponing some non-urgent work
  • cancelling group sessions, like the Managing Memory service, Let's Talk and baby hubs
  • reviewing plans for routine operations, although planned operations are currently continuing as normal
  • GP surgery doors will be kept open, although working arrangements will continue to change to reflect staff availability and pressures
  • face to face GP consultations will continue where appropriate, but there will be significantly more telephone, online and video consultations
  • cancelling some routine GP surgery and hospital appointments as the situation develops, although individual patients will be contacted if this affects you
  • writing to some patients who receive regular care at home to let them know that the Trust may need to cover their visits or treatment using alternative qualified staff or in different ways. Patients, carers and families are being asked for their thoughts.

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:

  • if you have a new and persistent cough or a fever (37.8 degrees or higher), self isolate to protect others and stop the spread
  • do not visit your pharmacy, GP surgery or hospital
  • if your symptoms worsen during home isolation, use NHS 111 online or call NHS 111
  • remain vigilant
  • carry on washing hands often with soap and water
  • follow related hygiene advice

If you have symptoms of coronavirus

  • do not book an appointment or visit a GP surgery or hospital
  • follow specific public health advice and use NHS 111 online if your symptoms worsen

All other patients

  • contact your GP surgery if you need medical help
  • attend appointments at Gloucestershire Royal Hospital, Cheltenham General Hospital and Stroud Maternity Hospital unless you are contacted directly to advise otherwise, or if you have symptoms that require you to self isolate
  • if you are unable to attend an appointment due to self isolation, you should contact the hospital through usual routes for advice on what to do
  • if you have not been contacted directly by the team that manages you care to make any other arrangements at this point, you should plan to attend as normal

For general advice on coronavirus, check the NHS.UK website.

Local care and service advice is also available from the ASAP Glos website and the ASAP Glos NHS App.