This is how the NHS in the North East is preparing for spread of coronavirus outbreak
North East NHS chiefs have announced they are stepping up plans to help cope with expected increases in coronavirus cases including among frontline staff.
From Tuesday, March 24, non-urgent patient transport services to hospital appointments and clinics will be suspended by the North East Ambulance Service (NEAS) until further notice.
And health bosses will begin to postpone non-urgent planned operations and outpatient appointments to help hospitals prepare for expected increases in admissions due to the pandemic.
The move is also due to help them function as they expect a number of NHS frontline staff including ambulance workers are expected to contract coronavirus and will have to self-isolate.
The NHS says hospitals are discharging more patients well enough to return home to free up the maximum number of inpatient and critical care beds in the region.
Barry Dews, strategic head of operations at NEAS, said: “We also anticipate that as the virus spreads, some of our own staff will become infected and need to self-isolate at home.
“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.”
A limited transport service will continue for patients needing dialysis; chemotherapy, radiotherapy and other cancer treatment at 21 essential clinics; and when required for non-urgent assessment as directed by a clinician. NHS trusts are also contacting patients with 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 are unaffected.
Trusts will contact patients directly.
Professor Chris Gray, medical director for Cumbria and the North East, added: “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.”
Patients who are concerned about their transport should contact NEAS on 0300 1110247.