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Changes to services as we step up plans to tackle Coronavirus

no visiting

The NHS Trust providing hospital and community care for patients across County Durham and Darlington has made a number of temporary changes to some of its services to ensure it is as prepared as possible to care for patients requiring hospital admission due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

Noel Scanlon, executive director of nursing at County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust, said, "We'd like to reassure our local communities that we have plans in place and are well prepared to be able to support them through this.

"Part of these plans includes using our hospitals in Darlington, Durham and Bishop Auckland, and some of the wards within them, in a different way.  This will enable us to increase our capacity to manage critical care patients and separate patients with suspected Covid-19 from other patients.  Our plan includes increasing the number of beds in our community hospitals and opening some additional beds and ward areas in Bishop Auckland Hospital. At University Hospital of North Durham and Darlington Memorial Hospital, we've introduced separate emergency department areas for patients with respiratory problems to keep them separate from other patients.

"In addition, like Trusts across the NHS, we're contacting patients who have non-urgent planned operations and routine outpatient appointments to let them know their appointment is postponed. Emergency admissions, cancer treatment and other urgent clinical care will remain unaffected and continue to go ahead, wherever possible.  We appreciate this will be disappointing and worrying for those affected and this is not a decision we've taken lightly, however we believe this is the best way for us to support the patients already being admitted to hospital with Coronavirus.  We also anticipate that as the virus spreads, some of our staff will become infected and need to self-isolate at home and we need to ensure we can handle the anticipated increase in patients requiring admission.

"We've contacted over 5,000 patients since the weekend, by text if we have a mobile number, prioritising contacting those people with appointments this week, in order to avoid them attending hospital and leaving home unnecessarily.  We apologise that in the current rapidly changing situation this has meant short notice and confusion in some cases - we're working to incredibly tight timescales. We ask that people don't ring the hospital if they've received a text already, just follow the instruction in the text.  We'll be getting in contact with them if there's any further information they need to know at this time. We're following up with phone calls and letters where possible.  We'd like to take this opportunity to say how grateful we are to our patients and the public for their support and understanding.


Patient transport

"For patients whose appointment is still going ahead, non-urgent patient transport services have also been suspended by the North East Ambulance Service (NEAS) until further notice. This will enable NEAS to support our hospitals to discharge more patients well enough to return home and free-up the maximum possible inpatient and critical care beds. A limited transport service will continue for patients needing dialysis; chemotherapy, radiotherapy and other cancer treatment at essential clinics across the region. Patients who are concerned about their transport should contact NEAS on 0300 111 0247.


Stay at home

"Our patients and the wider public are already showing enormous support for our staff during this national emergency.  The best way to do this is to following the advice from scientists and the Government to stay at home.


"We've had a lot of very generous offers from people keen to help by bringing food in for our staff.  We're enormously touched by this generosity and kindness, however, bringing food to hospital wouldn't be in line with the 'stay at home' advice.  We'd also like to assure everyone that we're making sure our hard-working teams will have plenty of hot food and drink during the days and nights ahead.


"If you have symptoms of Coronavirus, please stay at home and don't come to hospital, your GP practice or any other NHS facility.  You don't need to ring 111 unless your symptoms become a concern.   If you have any symptoms, you must self-isolate for seven days or longer if your temperature remains raised.  Any other members of your household need to self-isolate for 14 days and for seven days if they develop symptoms, regardless of where they are in the initial 14 day self-isolation.

Visiting restrictions

"Over the last couple of weeks we have restricted visitors to one per patient.  In light of the current guidance for people to stay at home, we have made the difficult decision to suspend, with immediate effect, visiting to our adult wards and restrict visiting to our children's wards to one parent only. Maternity units are restricted to one birthing partner only with no visitors to post-natal wards.

"Ward sisters will have some discretion in extremely sensitive circumstances to grant one visitor by arrangement under carefully controlled conditions.


"We're all in this together during these unprecedented times but we're prepared and ask our local communities for their understanding as we make these difficult decisions - and to stay at home."

'As I was very, very nervous, I must have been the worst patient ever and they were brilliant with me and I can't thank them enough - could you please pass on my sincere thanks.'

Patient, Hysteroscopy Unit, Chester-le-Street Community Hospital