Health chiefs in the North East are today announcing that they
are now suspending non-urgent patient transport services to
hospitals and clinics and starting to postpone non-urgent planned
operations and outpatient appointments to ensure the NHS is as
prepared as possible for Coronavirus.
The news comes as the region's NHS steps up plans to cope
with increases in patients requiring hospital admission and
respiratory support due to the pandemic.
It is announcing that:
Barry Dews, strategic head of
operations at NEAS, said: "This is not a decision taken lightly and
we know some patients will be worried about whether they should
still attend their hospital appointment.
"We regularly carry out around
2,800 patient journeys a day and we have already seen this drop to
1,500 patient journeys a day as hospitals start cancelling
appointments and some patients are either self-isolating or
following government advice to socially distance
"We are working very closely
with hospitals and our NHS commissioners to ensure that all
patients are notified of this change and given advice on what they
should do next."
He said that today's announcement also
increases the availability of NEAS staff to respond to emergency
calls. This move allows the ambulance service to play its part in
the wider population measures to socially distance its crews from
others to slow down the spread of the virus.
"We also anticipate that as
the virus spreads, some of our own staff will become infected and
need to self-isolate at home," said Mr Dews. "By removing the
routine burdens now, we are better placed to support critically-ill
patients as well as our own workforce when they start to become
affected in this national emergency."
Professor Chris Gray, medical director for Cumbria and the North
East, said: "We completely understand that this will be very
difficult news to hear for many of our patients, their families and
our staff too. But this is an important step we must take to ensure
we free-up beds and staff, so we can care for the most critically
ill in these unprecedented times.
"To reassure people, emergency admissions, cancer treatment and
other urgent clinical care will remain unaffected."
Prof Gray reassured communities that they don't need to take any
action or call their hospital or GP.
He added: "Please don't call our busy hospitals, you will be
contacted if your non-urgent operation or appointment is affected.
If you have not heard it is important that you attend your
appointment. Please bear with us and thank you for your
"I'd also like to take this opportunity to urge people to help
us during these unprecedented times by using NHS services sensibly
and social distancing."
The move by the
region's NHS follows a letter to health leaders from NHS chief
executive, Sir Simon Stevens, last week setting out key actions the
NHS must take which includes the measures being announced by the
region's trusts today.
Published 24th March 2020
Issued on behalf of the North East and North Cumbria
Integrated Care System
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'The treatment I have received from all the staff has been
excellent and could you extend my thanks to them all. A very
thankful and relieved patient'.
Patient, Dermatology Outpatients Department, University Hospital
of North Durham