The NHS both locally in Buckinghamshire and nationally is experiencing huge challenges with the number of COVID-19 positive patients requiring treatment in our hospitals increasing significantly in recent weeks – almost 50% of our beds are occupied by COVID-19 patients.
In order to cope with this increased demand, along with the need to maintain other services as much as possible, Buckinghamshire Health NHS Trust, in line with national guidance, has made a number of temporary changes so that staff can be deployed to support urgent and critical care:
- Postponement or delay of non-urgent operations/procedures and outpatient appointments.
- Community therapists are working with their hospital colleagues to support patients to return home as quickly as it is medically safe to do so. This has meant a suspension of our outpatient adult community therapy services;
- The Community Assessment and Treatment Services (CATS) based at Marlow, Thame and Amersham Hospitals has been temporarily relocated to the medical day unit in Wycombe Hospital and is closed to new referrals.
The Trust continues to offer the following services, including:
- Urgent, planned operations. If you are sent an invite, please make sure that you attend or let us know if you decide not to or are unable to.
- Our emergency department (A&E) remains open to anyone who needs emergency and life-saving care. However, If you need care in a situation that is not life threatening, please use the 111 First phone and online service, which has been expanded this year to direct you promptly to the most appropriate care available.
- Diagnostics – It is extremely important that all patients continue to attend any diagnostic or screening appointments they receive. Infection prevention and control protocols are in place to ensure these services can continue safely and patients can attend with confidence. These services include:
- Breast screening – The service is extremely keen to ensure those called for screening attend appointments and reminds their patients that early detection saves lives.
- Radiology (x-rays and CT scans) – a temporary CT scanning facility has been installed at Amersham Hospital in addition to those in our radiology departments at Stoke Mandeville and Wycombe Hospital.
- Endoscopy – it is important that patients invited for gastroenterology or endoscopy screening procedures attend their appointments. Full guidelines and information will be provided for patients along with their appointment letter.
- Blood tests – from 1 February all blood tests must be pre-booked online to ensure a smooth flow of patients through the service. This will reduce the need to wait at peak times and provide a better experience for patients and staff. Details for the online booking service are available on our website.
- Sexual health services remain open by appointment at both our Wycombe Hospital site and at the Brookside clinic in Aylesbury.
- Cancer and haematology treatment and support are unaffected, with the infection prevention and control protocols in place to protect our vulnerable patients. Our haematology inpatient ward has been temporarily relocated to the Shelburne Hospital where patients are still being looked after by Trust staff.
- Maternity services – Specific infection, prevention and control measures are in place. Please see our birth choices website for more information. Wycombe Birth Centre will remain closed for births during the pandemic however we continue to offer outpatient services.
- The Rapid Response and Intermediate Care Service is urgently responding to patients who are at high risk of hospital admission to enable them to remain at home.
- Cataract surgery – we have a separate, theatre to ensure we can safely continue to offer cataract operations so if you are offered an appointment, please do attend.
Dan Gibbs, chief operating officer for the Trust, said,
“We have to make some very difficult decisions to ensure that we can continue to provide safe and compassionate care for those in most urgent need.
“We would like to apologise to anyone whose treatment has been delayed as a result of this. I fully appreciate just how disappointing and frustrating this is and we are doing everything in our power to keep disruption to an absolute minimum.
“Thank you for your continued support and understanding at this hugely challenge time. I want to reassure you that we are still here for you whenever you need us – and if you are offered an appointment would urge you to keep it – but we need your help at this really busy time to keep our hospitals for those that need them most and are seriously ill.
“If you are feeling unwell and are not sure which service you need, contact NHS111 for advice. They will make sure that you are seen by the right people, in the right place as quickly as possible whether that is your GP, the Urgent Treatment Centre or the Emergency Department (A&E). They can book you an appointment so that you won’t have to wait about unnecessarily.” For the safety of our staff, patients and their loved ones, the Trust has suspended in-person visiting, with the exception of compassionate visiting such as end of life. However, we are doing all that we can to facilitate ‘virtual visits’, including video and telephone calls. Please find full information on our website.