Q) What is happening with outpatient appointments in our hospitals?

A) At the start of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, we stopped many of our routine outpatient appointments in order to maximise the availability of our clinical staff to deal with patients suffering from coronavirus symptoms. We carried on with some urgent appointments, but if we were able to, we didn’t bring people to the hospital; we carried out the consultation either by telephone or by a video call.

Teams across the Trust have been working hard to respond to the pandemic and ensure the safety and quality of services for all patients. Along with the rest of the NHS, the number one priority for the last few months has been ensuring that all those who need urgent care - not just those with coronavirus - have been able to get it when they need it. 

To allow this to happen and to help reduce the spread of the virus, some non-urgent appointments and surgeries were postponed and other appointments were delivered in a different way such as via telephone or video clinics.

The Trust is now in the position to be able to restore some of the services that were changed or postponed whilst teams were focused on dealing with the outbreak.

We are now bringing a lot more patients back to their outpatient appointment. However, we are continuing to carry out those appointments in other ways where we can. Those that we urgently have to carry out, with a physical examination, we are carrying out in a face-to-face way.

Q) How are you able to keep patients safe in outpatients?

A) We have taken a number of measures to ensure that patients, and our staff, are safe as we return to carrying out routine outpatient appointments.

Firstly, as we have said, we continue to carry out phone and video call appointments where it is clinically safe to do so. This ensures the patient doesn’t have to come to hospital and interact with people or the public – and is much safer for them.

It is also more convenient for them. For some patients, a trip to a hospital can be a daunting affair and can take a long time to organise. They may need help with transport, the person helping them may need to find a parking space that is difficult to find, they may be kept waiting for a while as other patients take longer than we first thought they would – it can be frustrating. So we are trying to see people remotely where we can.

If because of the clinical nature of the appointment, or for another reason, a face-to-face appointment is needed, we are taking all the precautions we can. Our waiting areas ensure that seating is socially distanced. We ask people to “keep left” in our corridors so they keep apart where possible, and we ask people to wear a face-covering in our public areas (so please bring one with you). And our staff who see you will be wearing the appropriate protective equipment – this keeps you and them safe.