Doctors and other healthcare professionals in Gloucestershire are urging local people to attend hospital appointments as the NHS restores many planned and routine services as part of its recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
During the peak of the outbreak, some patients had planned (elective) face-to-face appointments postponed or had virtual appointments instead and patients awaiting a date for an operation had their surgery delayed.
This action was necessary to keep patients and staff safe and to protect the NHS so that it was able to cope with the COVID-19 outbreak.
Many face-to-face appointments and services have now been reintroduced, and although waiting times for some procedures have increased as a result of the suspension, many patients are now being contacted and invited to attend.
Dr Hein Le Roux, GP in Churchdown and Deputy Clinical Chair at NHS Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said:
“We understand how frustrating it has been for patients to have had appointments or operations delayed, and we continue to be grateful for their understanding at a challenging time for the NHS.
We are also grateful to NHS staff across all services for pulling out all the stops at the height of the COIVD-19 pandemic to innovate and where appropriate, provide appointments virtually to minimise as far as possible the impact on patient care.
The good news is that hospital services have resumed many planned treatments and procedures. It is vitally important that patients attend these appointments to get the advice, tests, treatment or surgery they need. Initially, specialists will contact those with the most urgent clinical need.
Patients may have had initial worries about attending appointments in hospital, but the steps taken to minimise transmission of the virus and keep people safe is unprecedented. The risks are incredibly low and in-hospital transmission is rare.”
Dr Rachael De Caux, Chief Operating Officer at Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and A&E Consultant, said:
“All of the county’s hospitals have put rigorous infection control and social distancing procedures in place and patients can be confident that it is safe to attend appointments at all of the hospital sites.
Patients coming into our hospitals should continue to act responsibly by wearing a face covering, maintaining two metre social distancing, following infection control advice from hospital staff and washing hands frequently.”
Amjad Uppal, Medical Director from Gloucestershire Health and Care NHS Foundation Trust, said:
“Because of the incredible work that has been done to prevent infection and keep patients and staff safe, members of the public should have every confidence in attending their outpatient appointment or coming in for their operation.
If you are referred to hospital services, you must keep your appointment – whether that’s by phone, video or in person.
Your appointment is there for a reason and it’s important for your health in the longer term that you get the treatment you need and benefit from the NHS services available.”
Patients who have booked a virtual appointment with a clinician are asked to treat this as they would a normal appointment and ensure that they are in an environment where they can discuss personal information.