Some hospitals to be kept ‘Covid-free’

Some hospitals are to remain “Covid-free” under NHS plans to keep up usual care during a second wave of the pandemic.

Others are to have Covid-free zones to enable treatments to continue and minimise the risk of patients becoming infected with the virus.

Plans have been drawn up for certain hospitals in England to treat no Covid-19 patients and instead focus on other common pre-planned operations including hip and knee surgeries and cancer care, according to a report in The Guardian.

Concerns have previously been raised that patients put off seeking help for other illnesses during the first peak over concerns they may contract the virus if they went to hospital.

This, and the reduction of services during the first peak in the spring, have helped contribute to a big backlog of people in need of care.

The Guardian reported that NHS regions across England have been told to come up with plans to keep elective care going as much as possible even if coronavirus again puts significant pressure on hospitals.

Cities are much more likely to have entire hospitals designated coronavirus-free than rural and coastal parts of England, because of large distances between centres, it added.

The Whittington Hospital in north London has been designated as a coronavirus-free site.

This means it can continue to provide non-urgent planned surgery with a reduced risk of patients becoming infected with coronavirus while on wards.

Covid-19 patients who would usually be treated at the hospital will instead be cared for at University College London hospital or the Royal Free, the newspaper said.

Commenting on the plans, Saffron Cordery, deputy chief executive of NHS Providers, said: “This time round it makes sense to put arrangements in place to ensure that as much routine care as possible can continue, including identifying Covid and non-Covid sites.

“This approach can reduce the impact of necessary but burdensome infection control measures, such as deeper and more frequent cleaning and the need to wear and change cumbersome protective equipment, which should mean that there is greater capacity to treat and care for patients.

“Much has been learnt since the first wave of the pandemic.”

Layla McCay, director at the NHS Confederation, told the newspaper: “NHS leaders and frontline staff remain committed to delivering care for all patients.

“Whilst it was necessary to put elective treatment on hold during the spring peak of Covid-19, it is now important that we also try to resume normal services as far as possible.

“The backlog stands at a record high and so finding innovative and creative ways to meet demand will be key, particularly as we head towards a turbulent winter period.

“We commend solutions which see hospitals working together to deliver specialist care whilst bringing down waiting lists so that patients don’t have to wait longer than is necessary.”