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.
"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
"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
"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
'Every aspect of my emergency care was dealt with quickly,
efficiently and professionally with full explanations and
compassion from all staff involved'.
Patient, Emergency Department, Darlington Memorial Hospital