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Bucks NHS Trust speak on changes following the pandemic

The Chief Executive has explained, although reduced the number of COVID-19 patients is still significant.

Published by Scarlett Bawden-Gaul with contributions by Local Democracy Reporter Oliver Sirrell at 12:03pm 11th June 2020. 5-minute read.

Bucks NHS Trust speak on changes following the pandemic

Bucks NHS Trust issue warning over running of hospitals.

Hospitals in Buckinghamshire are still seeing significant numbers of coronavirus patients coming in despite numbers slowly reducing.

The peak of the pandemic was “not as intense” as Buckinghamshire NHS boss Neil Macdonald and his colleagues expected it to be, but the levelling-out of COVID-19 cases has been “much slower than originally forecast.”

The county’s NHS Trust, which runs seven hospitals across Buckinghamshire, has seen 120 patients die at its sites who tested positive for Covid-19 as of Monday June 8th.

Mr Macdonald, the Trust’s Chief Executive, outlined how the county’s hospitals are coping with coronavirus and revealed how the pandemic will ‘slow down’ how things move at the sites.

He said:

“We are having to plan for healthcare to be delivered in a very different way and that will probably happen for a number of months, if not years.

“That’s because until this virus disappears, or there is an effective vaccine, we will have to get used to operating in an environment where this is around.

“What the virus entails is a slowing down of what we normally do. For example, to fix someone’s hip, when they’ve unfortunately fallen over and broken it, takes about 40 per cent longer now than it used to do because of the necessary requirements in terms of infection control, PPE, cleaning, segregation.

“We need double the amount of people, space and facilities to do what we used to be able to do in half the time. That has a significant impact on our ability to function and keep people safe.”

Mr Macdonald said some parts of everyday hospital work are coming “back online”, including restarting elective cancer surgery in Wycombe.

However, he warned anybody coming in to have elective surgery will have to self-isolate with their household for 14 days before their operation.

Mr Macdonald added:

“It is not a quick thing to come in and have a cataracts operation because there are a number of logistic, safety and infection control measures we need to apply.

“We are having to put in place measures to make sure […] when we establish services we do so in a very safe way.

“That will take us some months to do, and of course, you can imagine everything we are doing, we are doing with one eye being potentially having to stand those things back down because of a potential second peak which may or may not come later in the year.”

Speaking to Buckinghamshire Council’s health committee, Mr Macdonald revealed what life has been like at the county’s hospitals the past 12 weeks.

In the first two weeks of the pandemic, bosses had to completely segregate the hospitals to reduce the risk of cross-contamination.

Around 100 patients were discharged in this period in order to free up the hospitals’ acute capacities in preparation for a “high influx of infected patients.”

More than 2,000 employees not on the frontline were set up to work from home in the space of a fortnight.

Staffing issues saw the hospitals lose 12 per cent of their workforce at one time due to sickness or self-isolation, meaning around 100 staff were redeployed to work in critical care units.

Mr Macdonald said the hospitals had some “tricky moments” with access to PPE and more than 4,000 staff were trained in the correct usage of the equipment.

He said at the peak of the virus, around half of Stoke Mandeville hospital was occupied with inpatients suffering from coronavirus.

This meant all routine work was suspended in hospitals and the majority of cancer surgery was relocated to The Chiltern Hospital in Great Missenden.

It also meant the Trust was forced to create an extra mortuary, something Mr Macdonald said had been used but not to its full capacity.

The Chief Executive thanked his staff for their work during the pandemic and praised the community’s response to his team.

He added:

“At times it was pretty scary and they’ve had to do some pretty incredible things.

“They’ve been ably supported and appreciated by a huge number of volunteers, and my appreciation goes to the community in how it responded in supporting us.”

The tribute was paid at a meeting of the health and social care committee on Thursday, June 4.

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