Our services during Covid-19

During the peak of the pandemic we made many changes to our services to help keep our patients and staff safe, including pausing or limiting certain services, to focus our resources appropriately.

We are now looking to restart services, in a phased way and in line with latest national guidance. We know we will be living with Covid-19 for some months to come and infection prevention guidance will form the basis for all our decisions. This means some services will take longer to restart than others, and may be delivered from a different location than before the pandemic.    

As we are still in a national emergency, we are having to respond flexibly and rapidly to an ever-changing situation. We will continue to keep you informed however we are not always able to engage around service changes as we would in normal circumstances.

Please rest assured that our changes are always in line with national guidance, and are to keep you and your loved ones safe.

Maternity services

We’ve reviewed visitor restrictions in our Maternity department and from Monday 21 September the following will apply:

Antenatal, postnatal and Coral wards

To help keep us all safe, it’s important that visiting still allows us to follow social distancing. One visitor (the birthing partner) will be able to visit for a two hour slot between 1pm and 5.30pm. The ward will arrange your visiting time with you.

Labour ward

One birthing partner can be with you while you are in labour.

Elective (planned) caesarean sections

Your birthing partner can stay with you while you are in our High Dependency Unit or Recovery area.

Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU)

Visiting hours have been extended, one parent at a time, can attend between 10am and 10pm.

Services for children and young people (Paediatrics)

As we prepare for winter, and possible future waves of Covid-19, we are continuing to do everything we can to keep our young patients safe.

During the first peak, we closed Clover ward as a children’s inpatient ward at King George Hospital and turned it into additional critical care capacity so we could look after our very sick Covid patients. All children who needed to stay in hospital were admitted to our children’s ward at Queen’s Hospital.

During winter, if your child needs admitting, they will continue to be admitted at Queen’s. Clover ward will stay closed as a children’s ward, and will continue to be used for critically ill adult patients. We are planning to open a Children and Young People’s Assessment Unit at Queen’s Hospital. This unit is designed to help keep children from being admitted unless absolutely necessary.

If your child is sick and is brought to King George Hospital they will be seen by a team there, and, if they need further assessment or to be admitted they will be transferred to Queen’s Hospital, either by their family members or carers if they are well enough, or by ambulance if this is necessary.

As well as ensuring we have enough critical care beds, this also helps us use our paediatric resources as wisely as possible. Several of our paediatricians are shielding, and we have a number of staff shortages, which we are working hard to recruit into.

Please rest assured that we continue to be well equipped to deal with very sick children on their immediate arrival at both of our Emergency Departments.  

Getting the best care for your child

If your child is severely unwell or has been involved in a serious accident, call for an ambulance – dial 999 for emergency services. All children will continue to be taken by ambulance to Queen’s Hospital, as has been the case for many years.

If you do not need to call for an ambulance and are unsure where to take your child, call NHS 111 – they can advise you on the best place for your child to get the treatment they need, for example, a GP, a pharmacy, or an urgent treatment centre. NHS 111 can also advise on whether your child needs to be brought to our Emergency Department. 

Outpatient appointments

To keep our patients safe, we are continuing to hold telephone and video clinics where appropriate so our patients do not need to come into our hospital if it’s not absolutely necessary. Some face to face appointments for the most clinically urgent patients have also started again at our hospitals, and we are ensuring we follow the national infection prevention control guidelines.

We have put the following measures in place to reduce the potential spread of Covid-19 among staff and visitors in our hospitals:

  • There is restricted access to the hospital to reduce congestion.
  • All staff must wear a surgical face mask and all visitors must wear a face covering whilst in our hospitals.
  • All staff and visitors must sanitise their hands at the entrance to our hospitals, there are also sanitising stations at regular points throughout the hospital.
  • We have introduced front door screening for staff, patients and visitors to ensure everyone in our hospitals are symptom free of Covid-19. This includes a temperature check and screening questions.
  • There is enhanced cleaning throughout the hospital and in between patient appointments.

Blood tests

Blood tests are carried out both in our hospitals and in the community, depending on how the patient is referred. If the patient is under our care, they can have a test at one of our hospitals. We are also still seeing children under 12; parents and carers can book the appointment directly with the Children’s Outpatients team.

We have launched an online booking platform as well as a phone line to ensure patients can access blood tests. Haematology and oncology patients have a dedicated (Covid protected) service, five days a week, where those in greatest need are prioritised and seen at the start of each day. 

Patients referred by their GP need to have their blood test at a community clinic; children aged 12 and over can also be booked into any of these by their parent or carer. This is to limit footfall in our hospitals and keep our patients and staff safe. The North East London Foundation Trust (NELFT) is currently providing blood-testing appointments at ten community locations across our three boroughs, with the Hurley Group offering a bookable blood-testing service at Harold Wood Polyclinic in Havering. Housebound patients are supported by NELFT’s domiciliary blood-testing service which GPs can refer into directly.

Community blood-testing services are currently experiencing a high level of demand and our commissioners are working closely with NELFT and our GP colleagues to look at additional capacity. We will continue to keep you updated on our blood testing page and you can also visit  the Havering CCG website for information on blood tests in Barking, Havering and Redbridge boroughs.

Please be aware that we are unable to deal with issues regarding community services – these must be directed to NELFT or the Hurley Group, as appropriate.

Endoscopy services

We have now restarted our endoscopy service at Queen’s Hospital. To ensure we keep our patients safe, we are following the latest national guidance, such as new decontamination processes, and are working together with our partners across north east London so that we can maximise our capacity.   

Gynaecology

Our planned gynaecology procedures - hysteroscopies and colposcopies will now be delivered at King George Hospital. Emergency gynaecology, complex elective inpatients and general non-procedural outpatients will take place at Queen’s Hospital. 

Sexual Health

For people needing our sexual health service, please note this will remain at Barking Hospital until the new year.

Frailty Unit opens at King George Hospital

This week we’ve opened a frailty unit at King George Hospital which has been purposely designed to care for our frail and elderly patients, and aims to get them home on the same day.

We’ve brought together experts from across our clinical teams to provide rapid intervention from the point of arrival which will help us to care for our patients quicker, preventing them from having long waits in our Emergency Department.

The unit also has ambulatory assessment bays which allow patients to be assessed in special recliner chairs rather than beds where possible. This is much easier for frail patients, and also means they can stay in their own clothes which is more comfortable for them.

The team on the unit will also continue to develop links with our partners in the community, so we can ensure frail patients only stay in hospital when absolutely necessary, and can return home without delay when they’ve recovered.

Screening at King George Hospital 

So that we can safely restart more outpatient clinics, we’re screening all outpatients and visitors arriving to King George Hospital to help reduce the risk of Covid-19 infection transmission. On arrival to one of the entrances to King George Hospital, patients and visitors will be taken to a private area and will be asked to have their temperature checked and to answer a few questions.

If the screening identifies that the patient or visitor may have has symptoms of Covid-19, they will be advised to go home and self-isolate in line with national guidance and get a test. Their appointment will be cancelled and rebooked for two weeks’ time.

Patients will also receive a phone call the day before their appointment to go through some screening questions. Patients will be asked to call the hospital the day before their appointment if they have symptoms suggestive of Covid-19,  this will help to prevent patients making their way to their appointment and being turned away. if they have symptoms of Covid-19. It’s really important for the health of our communities that we are able to restart Outpatients appointments and our priority is keeping us all safe while doing this.

Planned surgery and colour-coded zones at King George Hospital

A phased re-introduction has begun of routine planned surgeries at King George Hospital (KGH). Due to Covid-19 we had to defer planned surgeries for a number of patients in line with national guidance. The continuing threat and impact of this virus means we cannot simply wait for it to pass, so we have restructured a number of our services so we can begin to reintroduce them safely.

We have introduced a number of measures including zoning sections of KGH, restricting public access and staff movement, creating new entrances, and increasing patient pre-assessment checks.

Patients offered a planned surgery appointment will be required to self-isolate for a period of time (dependent on the procedure they are undergoing) before and after their surgery. They will also have an antigen swab test, 48 to 72 hours before their surgery and have a temperature check on the day of their procedure.  They will only enter the ‘green’ zone of KGH, and they will have their own dedicated entrance and exit.

Staff working with these patients in the green zone will be required to complete a self-assessment and have a temperature check at the start of each shift. In doing this we are making the green zone as safe and as Covid-19 free as we possibly can. We will review our processes at every step, making any necessary adjustments to ensure our patients can be treated and staff can work, as safely as possible.

Download the map showing new entrances and drop off points: 

KingGeorgeHospital_externalmap.pdf [pdf] 156KB

Change of location of antenatal services at King George Hospital

We have moved our antenatal service from the first floor of King George Hospital to the ground floor. This is because we need to use our hospital sites differently to ensure we keep our patients safe as we continue to manage Covid-19.

Currently antenatal services are located opposite our theatres, which must be kept completely Covid free so we can treat our patients who are having routine planned operations. These patients must follow strict national guidelines around self-isolation before coming in for their surgery.

In antenatal, there may be women who are not showing any symptoms of Covid-19, however we cannot guarantee are negative, due to the nature of the virus. We therefore need to care for them away from theatres and are relocating them to the ground floor.

Download the map showing the new antenatal entrance: 

KingGeorgeHospital_externalmap.pdf [pdf] 156KB

Emergency admissions

Our ERU has been changed to ‘Same Day Emergency Care’ (SDEC). This is a service that cares for patients being considered for emergency admission; it will provide key investigations/specialist opinions and help to avoid admission where it’s unnecessary. Patients will be moved directly from our Emergency Department (A&E) to the unit. SDEC will be open between 8am and 10pm, seven days a week.

Stroke rehabilitation

Our stroke rehabilitation services, which we run jointly with the North East London Foundation Trust (NELFT) will restart at King George Hospital in July. 

Cancer services

We have made significant changes to our cancer services in a short space of time, to help protect our most vulnerable patients and ensure they receive the care they need. We will continue to review our services and adapt them as necessary, and will provide the best possible treatment for each patient based on their clinical need and in line with national guidance.

Chemotherapy and surgery

Chemotherapy can temporarily weaken the immune system, which means that cancer patients are more susceptible to contracting Covid-19.

So we have worked closely with the independent sector to secure space to treat our chemotherapy patients at Spire Hartswood in Brentwood, where the environment will have a much reduced risk for our patients of catching Covid-19.

A small number of patients will continue to have their chemotherapy at Queen’s Hospital, for example, if their treatment needs to happen alongside timed radiotherapy, and we will continue to treat our most critical leukaemia patients at Queen’s Hospital. We have made improvements to our Sunflower Suite to safeguard them further from risks of infection.

We are still accepting new referrals from GPs and have put appropriate diagnostics in place that are in line with national guidance being implemented across the NHS. This means procedures such as endoscopy and biopsies will remain suspended for now, but we will continue to use X-ray, MRIs and CT scans.

We are also working very closely with partner NHS organisations and the independent sector to review the best approach for delivering surgical treatments for our patients.

While non-urgent surgeries are still postponed, we are working together to carry out essential surgeries based on clinical need. This will be in line with national and local guidance and may not be done in our own hospitals.

Radiotherapy

Radiotherapy treatments are continuing as normal for the majority of our patients. For some patients their treatment start date has been postponed, in agreement with their consultant that it can be done safely with no adverse impact on the outcome of their treatment. Read more about how we’ve supported our cancer patients in our latest news story.