Posts

Northumbria Healthcare logo

Non-essential hospital visits suspended

From Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust:
Due to the rise in cases of coronavirus in the community, non-essential visiting is to be suspended in hospitals across Northumberland and North Tyneside, with effect from midnight, Thursday 17 September 2020.
Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust has taken this difficult, however important, decision to protect its patients and staff.Until further notice, visiting will only be permitted in the following circumstances and PPE must be worn:

  • For patients who are receiving end-of-life care or are terminally ill and in the late stages of their illness
  • For birthing partners in maternity units
  • For parents or legal guardians in the children’s unit
  • For long-stay patients and those with dementia or where best interest decisions or exceptional clinical/social matters are being discussed, at the discretion of the nurse in charge

Women can bring their birthing partners when attending 12 or 20-week scan appointments.

This move comes as tougher restrictions are announced for the seven local authority areas in the North East, including Northumberland and North Tyneside.

iPads will continue to be available on wards to facilitate ‘virtual’ visiting and friends and relatives will be able to stay connected to loved ones by ringing the trust’s patient line on 0191 293 4306, available Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm or sharing pictures/photos via In addition, patients can make unlimited phone calls to UK landlines and mobiles free of charge via bedside units.

Anyone attending an outpatient or diagnostic appointment or for a minor injury, urgent care or in an emergency at hospitals in Northumberland and North Tyneside is asked to do so alone, unless they need to be accompanied by a carer, to reduce footfall. People attending hospital sites are being reminded to wash their hands at the basins when entering and leaving, wear a face covering and maintain social distancing.

Marion Dickson, executive director of nursing, midwifery and allied health professionals at Northumbria Healthcare, said:

“In light of the increased numbers of cases of coronavirus across Northumberland and North Tyneside, we simply must take action now to protect our patients, staff and local communities.

“Suspending non-essential visiting is a difficult decision to make however, given the current situation in our communities, it is the right one if we are to reduce the spread of coronavirus in our hospitals and take care of our most vulnerable patients.

“As nurses, we know the positive impact seeing and hearing from loved ones can have on a patient and we would urge families to make use of the methods we have in place to facilitate virtual visiting and staying connected.

“We had tremendous support from our communities when we had these visiting restrictions in place previously and we would appeal to them again for their co-operation at this difficult time.”

The trust is also reminding people to:

  • Follow advice on https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/if they have symptoms and not to attend A&E or hospital sites for a Covid-19 test.
  • Keep your distance and follow rules on social distancing – please stay apart 2 metres from others where possible. If it isn’t – one metre with mitigations such as a face covering.
  • Do not mix with people from outside your household or support bubble
  • Wear a face covering – especially in enclosed public spaces when social distancing can be difficult or when you are in contact with people you would not normally meet. This includes when you are using public transport, car sharing and using taxis. Please remember to wear a face covering if you are attending health care settings such as a hospital, clinic, GP surgery or pharmacist.
  • Keep those hands extra clean – wash hands for 20 seconds and often. Use soap and water to wash your hands or use hand sanitiser. It is especially important to do this when you
    • get home or into work
    • blow your nose or sneeze
    • eat or handle food or drinks

The main symptoms of coronavirus are:

  • a high temperature
  • a new, continuous cough
  • a loss of, or change to, your sense of smell or taste

If you have symptoms, you are advised to get a test and stay at home. For more information visit www.gov.uk/coronavirus

 

Our Review of the Year and AGM

Our Review of the year and AGM will take place online on Wednesday 21 October, from 2.00pm and 4.00pm. Find out about our work and how we made a difference to people in Northumberland over the last 12 months.

As the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care says ‘People should have phone or video consultations with their doctors unless there is a clinical reason not to’, and that there had been a ‘hugely positive’ response to virtual appointments during the coronavirus pandemic, we will also have guest presenters talking about technology in NHS and social care services. We’ll explore how the coronavirus crisis has accelerated the move to online appointments and consultations, what has worked well and not so well, and what we can expect in the future.

You can ask a question in advance or at the Q&A session in our webinar.

Join us if you can!

Register for the Healthwatch Northumberland Review of the Year

COVID-19: What people are telling us

Each month, thousands of people share their experiences about NHS and social care services with Healthwatches across the country. During the COVID-19 pandemic, this has ranged from the effect lockdown has had on carers, to the problems getting emergency dental treatment.

In Healthwatch England’s latest briefing they outline the issues over 19,700 people have raised, as well as taking an in-depth look at how technology has been used in response to the pandemic.

You can find a summary of the key points below or click the following link to read the full report:

Read the full report here

The impact of COVID-19

At the start of lockdown, people told us how the measures introduced to help control the spread of coronavirus were affecting their care.

Changes to routine and planned care – In many cases, people were unable to find the information they needed to understand what they should expect from services and were unclear about what the next steps for their treatment or care would be – leaving them feeling stressed and frustrated.

Shielding measures – Those who were shielding told us about problems in getting transport to their hospital care. For some people, the cost of attending one or more hospital appointments was too expensive to arrange private transport, especially if the hospital was far from home.

Access to prescription medicines – Initially people were struggling to get through to their GP or pharmacy by phone, and others experienced delays in getting their medication. This caused anxiety for people running out of supplies, particularly for those with long term conditions.

What can services learn?

  • People need clear, accurate and consistent information about their care and the services they use.
  • People’s experiences of hospital appointments do not start and end at the hospital doors – their journey begins at home, so transport arrangements must be considered.

Lockdown begins to ease

As lockdown restrictions began to reduce, we started to hear new concerns from people.

  • Worries about the future – People raised questions with us about how services can reopen safely, reported problems using services that are supposedly already open for business and expressed frustration at some NHS services being slow to reopen compared to other areas of the economy.
  • Testing for COVID-19 – While some people found visiting a testing centre easy, we also heard that the online booking process was difficult to use and there were concerns about the accessibility of testing centres.

What have people been telling us throughout?

  • Lack of accessible information – Throughout the pandemic, we have heard about the difficulties of finding up-to-date information in the languages or formats people need – especially when advice from the Government was frequently changing.
  • Emergency dental care – People did not know how to access emergency dental care – causing them extra stress while experiencing acute dental pain or other symptoms. Many others have felt they have no option but to go private if they want to receive treatment for what their dentist considered to be non-emergency treatment.
  • Access to B12 injections – Although some people received injections, either as normal or at a different GP practice, we also heard that in many areas there was an inconsistent approach to providing this treatment.
  • Care homes – People’s feedback highlighted that while family and friends were unable to visit their loved ones in care homes, timely and regular communication from care home staff really mattered.
  • The hidden effect on families and carers – The lack of respite has left many carers feeling stressed, isolated and forgotten about. We also heard about the difficulties some people faced helping the person that they care for to understand and remember the lockdown measures.
  • Praise for health and social care workers – Throughout the pandemic, we have heard about how much people appreciate the hard work of health and social care professionals during this time of unprecedented challenges.
  • The impact on people’s mental health – Since the start of lockdown, we have heard about the effects of the pandemic on people’s mental health and wellbeing. For some people, the changes to the services they would usually access have left them feeling abandoned – with infrequent telephone appointments not meeting their needs.

What can services learn?

  • Accessible information and meeting people’s communication needs must be considered from the start and should not be an afterthought. The information must also be shared through trusted sources, such as community centres and groups.
  • Families and carers have been providing even more care than usual during the pandemic – but this often goes unnoticed, and many need more support.
  • Good communications between care homes staff residents and their family and friends is key, especially while visiting restrictions are in place. Where appropriate, this should include involving residents’ families or next of kin in decision making about their care.
  • The mental health impacts of the pandemic are affecting both existing service users and non-service users. Mental health services will require investment to support people in both the short and long-term.

Digital healthcare

The pandemic has seen the digitisation of many health and social care services overnight. While digital appointments don’t work for everyone, and services should not be exclusively digital, it’s important healthcare services embrace technology for those who find it an efficient way to communicate. Our recent work in this area demonstrates how services are embracing this shift to digital healthcare:

The doctor will zoom you now

How the new NHS COVID-19 tracing app offers better data privacy

Read the full briefing to find out what we can learn from the rapid roll-out of virtual NHS consultations, and the importance of involving patients from the start when setting up new services.

 

If you would like to share your own experiences of health and social care services during the pandemic you can do so here:

Tell us your coronavirus story

How to contact your GP and get the help you need

As a result of Covid-19, the way patients access GP practices has had to change. Whilst this can be frustrating and unsettling at times, it is necessary to make sure that all staff and patients are kept safe. The following guidance from Northumberland Clinical Commissioning Group will help you to contact your GP and get the help you need.

What to do if you need to contact your GP

If your needs are non-urgent, adult patients can contact their GP via the e-consult service on your practice’s website in the first instance. You can contact your GP practice and get a reply within two working days. You can also request medication, sick notes and bloods results through this service.

For health care needs regarding children, urgent problems or for those patients who are unable to access online services, you should telephone your practice and your call will be answered as soon as possible. The practice may ask for a brief summary of the problem to help direct you to the most appropriate member of the GP practice team.

Please note that your consultation may not need to be with a GP. It may be that the care/advice you need can be given by another member of the practice team.

Where possible and appropriate, consultations will be conducted either online or via telephone. If a face-to-face appointment is required and you need to visit the practice, please wear a face covering (unless exempt) when you arrive.

Face-to-face appointments

Your temperature may be taken on arrival and you will also need to sanitise your hands. Please be aware that the surgery doors may be locked and you will need to be granted access by a member of the practice team. There will be less people in the waiting room than usual and chairs are positioned apart from each other to ensure you can observe social distancing.

Please ensure you observe social distancing while in your GP surgery. There is clear signage to guide you. You are asked to wear a face covering if you need to attend the surgery in person.

If you have any coronavirus symptoms including a high temperature, new, continuous cough or a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste please DO NOT visit a GP surgery. You must stay at home along with anyone you live with and anyone in your support bubble. Only leave home to get a test. Self-isolate until you get your result.

Urgent medical needs

Please don’t delay in contacting your GP practice if you have an urgent medical need. The NHS is here for you and your family.
You can also get urgent medical advice online from 111.nhs.uk or by calling 111. For life-threatening emergencies please call 999 or go straight to A&E.

What practices are doing to ensure services can be resumed as soon as possible

Practices are working extremely hard to manage the backlog of work and patient appointments as a result of Covid-19. Please be assured that they will be doing all they can to arrange appointments and services for you as quickly as possible.

Please also be mindful that, at times, workforces may be affected by Covid-19, so teams may be smaller than usual. They are, however, all doing their very best to look after you. We ask you to be patient, polite and respectful. No type of abuse will be tolerated by any member of staff.

All the necessary steps are being taken to protect you and staff from coronavirus. Robust measures are in place to ensure that practices are safe.

When to self-isolate

If you have symptoms of COVID-19, however mild, you must self-isolate for at least 10 days from when your symptoms started. Please do not visit your GP surgery. You should arrange to have a test to see if you have COVID-19.

If you are not experiencing symptoms but have tested positive for COVID-19, you also must self-isolate for at least 10 days, starting from the day the test was taken.

If you develop symptoms during this isolation period, you must restart your 10-day isolation from the day you develop symptoms. If you live with others, all other household members must stay at home and not leave the house for 14 days. The 14-day period starts from the day when the first person in the household became ill or if they do not have symptoms, from the day their test was taken.

High risk groups

If you are in a high risk group, you can still go out provided you are well but you should:

  • Maintain two metres distance from people outside your support bubble
  • Avoid crowded spaces
  • Wear a face covering in shops and other enclosed spaces
  • Avoid touching your face
  • Wash your hands carefully and more frequently than normal
  • Use sanitiser outside your home (where available) especially as you enter a building and after you have had contact with surfaces.

 

NHS asks ‘do your bit’

Don’t just turn up to A&E – think pharmacy, 111 and GP first

Public asked to #doyourbit to protect the NHS by keeping A&E free for serious emergencies.

Health leaders across Northumberland, North Tyneside, Newcastle and Gateshead are asking people to do their bit by thinking pharmacy, GP and 111 first, and not just to turn up to A&E.

The plea is the first part of a new ‘do your bit’ campaign aimed at raising awareness of the first routes people should take for urgent medical advice and treatment, following the disruption caused by Covid19.

Health chiefs say that due to social distancing and infection precautions, the space available in A&E to care for people and allow NHS staff to work safely has been reduced by 30-50 per cent. Action is needed now to protect patients and staff alike from now and into the future.

Bas Sen, a Consultant in Emergency Medicine, Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle and Regional Clinical Advisor for the North East and Yorkshire said: “We want to make it easier and safer for patients to get the right advice or treatment when they urgently need it. We are now putting in place measures to support and guide the public to make the right healthcare choices. This will help ensure their safety, as well as making sure they get the right treatment in the most appropriate place.

“Specifically, if their need is not life threatening, we would advise patients to contact their local pharmacy, their GP or 111 online in the first instance.

“Advice will be provided based on individual issues and solutions will range from self-care through to an appointment with a GP, or being directed to go to a pharmacist or Urgent Treatment Centre.

“Those that do turn up to either an A&E department or an Urgent Treatment Centre, will be assessed clinically by a member of our team and if suitable, will be re-directed to a more appropriate service for their needs.”

The campaign is supporting a pilot scheme which commenced on 3 August by the NHS in the North Integrated Partnership (ICP) area (which covers Gateshead, Newcastle, North Tyneside and Northumberland) before being rolled out across the region in September 2020.

Bas continued: “Too many people who come to A&E can be dealt with quicker by an alternative service such as their pharmacist, GP or 111. In light of COVID-19, and with winter ahead, it is more important than ever that we don’t have large volumes of people in our surgeries, clinics and hospitals when they could have been cared for elsewhere.”

“Because of the need to socially distance our hospitals have reduced space in waiting rooms and with around 50-70 per cent of attendances at A&E made up of patients who walk-in we must keep people safe – especially our most vulnerable and shielded patients.

“By thinking of alternative services such as pharmacist, GP and 111 first people can do their bit to help stop the spread of Coronavirus, keep people safe and keep A&E for real emergencies. At the same time this also means they will get the right treatment in a timely manner, in the most appropriate place for them too.

“So please don’t turn up or walk in to A&E or urgent care services without seeking advice from either a 111, GP or pharmacist, first – unless your condition is life threatening.

“Please remember that NHS 111 can make direct appointments at surgeries, pharmacies and urgent treatment centres. They can also send an ambulance should your condition be serious or life-threatening.”

In addition, we are asking people to act responsibly and consider carefully the impact drug use and alcohol has on people behaviours which can increase demands within A&E departments.

Clinical lead for the North East and North Cumbria Integrated Care System, Professor Chris Gray, said: “The support for the NHS has been amazing over recent months and as winter approaches we will be asking people to keep this up and do their bit to protect the NHS and each other. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank all our health and care staff across the North East and North Cumbria. The last few months have been difficult and their commitment to delivering excellent quality care has never waived.”

Back to school support from Diabetes UK

As schools are due to reopen in September, Diabetes UK knows that parents and carers might be worried about the safety of their children with diabetes returning to school.

To help ease these worries they have organised a ‘Back to school’ question and answer session via Zoom with a panel of experts who will help to answer any questions you might have.

The Zoom session will take place on Wednesday 12 August from 7.30pm to 8.30pm.

The panel of experts will include:

  • Dr Fiona Campbell: Consultant Paediatrician and Diabetologist at Leeds Children’s Hospital
  • Carol Metcalfe: Advanced Specialist Practitioner in Paediatric Diabetes at Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital
  • James Rodger-Phillips: a Head of Department at a secondary school who lives with type 1 diabetes
  • Steve Paxton: parent of two teenagers with type 1 diabetes and Good Care In School Award assessor

The Type 1 Events team are also running further panels for parents and carers in August and September:

  • Newly diagnosed – what happens when type 1 diabetes joins your family? Tuesday 18 August – 7pm to 8.30pm.
  • Becoming more independent. Monday 21 September – 7pm to 8.30pm.

If you would like to attend any of these events you can sign up here.

All of the latest advice for managing diabetes during the coronavirus outbreak can be found on the Diabetes UK coronavirus advice page.

Safe Hospital Visiting Piloted Locally

Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust is piloting reintroducing visiting safely to some of its inpatient wards in hospitals across Northumberland and North Tyneside.

Working with relatives, the trust is putting in place an appointment system to enable people to visit loved ones on wards at Alnwick Infirmary, Berwick Infirmary, Blyth Community Hospital, Haltwhistle War Memorial Hospital and medicine, care of the elderly and mental health wards at Wansbeck, Hexham and North Tyneside general hospitals.

The relatives of patients in these pilot areas will be contacted to make arrangements to visit if they wish. If anyone has any questions about the pilot, or are unsure whether the ward on which their loved one is staying is part of it, they should contact the ward directly.

Reintroducing visiting at The Northumbria hospital and surgical wards at general hospitals are currently NOT included in the pilot, however, a review is ongoing and the trust aims to expand it to more inpatient areas in due course should it prove safe and workable.

The trust suspended visiting in mid-March to protect its patients and staff and help reduce the spread of coronavirus except in the following circumstances which remain unchanged:

For patients who are receiving end-of-life care
For birthing partners in maternity units
For parents or legal guardians in the children’s unit
At the discretion of the nurse in charge for long-stay patients and those with dementia

There is also currently no visiting to day units, endoscopy, x-ray, oncology areas.

Marion Dickson, executive director for nursing, midwifery and allied health professionals at Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Protecting our patients and staff is our top priority and while it is not the right time to lift our suspension of visiting completely, we’re committed to working with relatives to safely introduce visiting in pilot areas.

“Our ward teams across Northumberland and North Tyneside are contacting the relatives of patients where visiting is to be allowed to make arrangements. We’d urge people not just to turn up to a ward to visit without first speaking to staff to make an appointment as they will not be allowed in. Anyone with queries should contact the ward directly.

“Whilst our Northumbria hospital and some wards at our general hospitals are excluded from the pilot at this stage, we’d like to reassure people that we are looking at how it is working and plan to include more wards when it is appropriate to do so.”

To keep everyone safe during the pilot, the numbers of visitors on wards at any one time will be limited and visiting will be restricted to up to an hour a day per patient. On arrival on the ward, visitors would need to wash their hands and wear a face covering, gloves and apron throughout their visit. It must also be the same visitor per patient throughout the pilot and visitors will be required to give their contact details to the ward staff.

Arrangements to make iPads available on wards across the trust to facilitate virtual visiting will remain in place. Friends and relatives are also able to stay connected to their loved ones in hospital by ringing 0191 293 4306, available Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm.

Marion added: “We appreciate that it has been difficult for people not being able to visit loved ones in hospital over the last few months and we would like to thank them for their co-operation and understanding.”

Social distancing, self-isolation, shielding: what’s the difference?

Self-isolation, social distancing and shielding have been introduced by the Government to help you and your loved ones stay safe from COVID-19. Find out what they mean in practice and what applies to you.
What is social distancing?
Social distancing refers to limiting face-to-face contact with others as much as possible. If you have to go outside you should stay more than two metres (three steps) apart from anyone other than members of your own household.
The Government’s most up to date advice can be found here.
We can all help control the virus if we all stay alert. This means you must:
  • stay at home as much as possible
  • work from home if you can
  • limit contact with other people
  • keep your distance if you go out (2 metres apart where possible)
  • wash your hands regularly

Do not leave home if you or anyone in your household has symptoms.

For more information, see the full government guidance on staying at home and away from others.

Read more on what you can and cannot do under the new restrictions.

Should I be social distancing?

Yes, everyone should be social distancing until the Government instructs otherwise.

Easy read guide on social distancing

Take a look at the easy read guide on social distancing: Keeping away from other people: new rules to follow from 23 March 2020.

Go to easy read

What is self-isolation?

Self-isolation is the most effective way to prevent the spread of coronavirus and should be done if you show symptoms of coronavirus – such as a dry cough and/or high temperature. It means that you must stay indoors and where possible, avoid contact with others. This includes stopping day-to-day activities, such as shopping for food or collecting medication.

If you are self-isolating it is a good idea to call on the help of family and friends to help you do tasks where you would need to go outside. If you do not have a close network nearby, contact your local authority or community aid groups for help.

Should I be in self-isolation?

The Government’s advice is to self-isolate if:

  • You have any coronavirus symptoms, such as a fever above 37.8C, a persistent cough or breathing problems.
  • You think that you have been exposed to coronavirus. For example, by being in contact with someone who is displaying symptoms.
  • You live with someone who has symptoms of coronavirus.

If you live alone, you should stay at home for seven days from when your symptoms started. If you live with others, then you must stay at home for seven days from when your symptoms started. However, everyone else in the household who is well must stay at home and not leave for 14 days.

Easy read guide on staying at home

Take a look at the easy read guide on staying at home: Coronavirus (COVID-19): advice on staying at home.

Go to easy read

Further guidance for staying at home

Take a look at the Government guidance for households with possible coronavirus (COVID-19) infection.

Read more

What is shielding or social shielding?

Shielding or social shielding is used to describe how to protect those at highest risk of severe illness if they catch coronavirus. You can shield yourself following the Government guidance, and shield others by minimising all interaction between yourself and those who are most at risk.

Should I be shielding?

If you have received a letter from the NHS identifying you as a patient in the high risk category, you should stay in isolation for a total of 12 weeks from the date you received your letter. If there are any changes to this advice, you will be contacted.

People in this group who think they have developed symptoms of coronavirus should get advice from the NHS 111 online service or call NHS 111.

Easy read guide on shielding

Take a look at the easy read guide on shielding: Guidance on protecting people most likely to get very poorly from coronavirus (shielding).

Go to easy read

Hear to help: preventing isolation during lockdown

Clinicians from Newcastle Hospital’s Audiology Department are adapting the way they help patients who use hearing aids by offering an improved postal repairs service to prevent loneliness and isolation.

Patients receive replacement batteries and tubing for their earmoulds so they can continue to hear, despite the lockdown restriction on non-urgent face-to-face appointments.

Kate Johnston, Head of Audiology at the Freeman Hospital said “Lockdown and being isolated from family and friends is tough on anyone, but if you lose your ability to hear, this can be even more isolating for the individual.

“We want to make sure that everyone can maintain some form of normality and can keep connected as possible, in what is a difficult time for everyone.

“We are still offering patients advice and support. If anyone needs batteries for their hearing aid or require information, please get in touch.”

The postal service is something that will be maintained after the current covid-19 restrictions are lifted and patients are encouraged to continue to order batteries and tubes via post where possible.

The Trust is no longer able to operate a drop-in hearing aid repair service at the Freeman Hospital. The hearing aid repair service will be offered by appointment only.

Appointments will be available from 8.15am – 5pm Monday to Friday (excluding bank holidays).

Kate added: “Appointments will be limited to allow us to adhere to social distancing regulations in our waiting areas, so these appointments will be for emergency repairs only e.g.broken earmoulds. Please only book an appointment if it is an emergency.  For all other repairs and hearing aid maintenance, we are still providing our postal repair service.”

To arrange a postal repair or to book an appointment please contact Audiology:

Telephone: 0191 223 1043

Text message only: 07766 087 036

Email – Adults: tnu-tr.audiology@nhs.net or Paediatrics: tnu-tr.childrensaudiologynorthoftyne@nhs.net

The Trust continues to follow updates from NHS England and will be seeing non-urgent patients when it is safe to do so.