The Homerton Hospital has said that it is aiming to re-start or increase services impacted by the pandemic “as soon as it is practical to do so,” while warning that wait times for routine appointment on non-urgent procedures are likely to lengthen.
Just over 3,000 staff of every level have now been received Covid vaccinations out of just over 4,000, and is now providing jabs to staff of all its partner organisations in City & Hackney from a unit of redeployed staff members based in its education centre.
A recently-released chief executive’s report dated 15 January, which it is understood is a reasonable representation of the current picture at the hospital, reports that the hospital was operating at the time with around 150 patients with Covid infections, which represents an easing off off pressure from the peak of over 200 at mid-December, but was still in excess of the hospital’s first peak maximum of 118.
The report adds: “It is likely that wait times for routine appointments on none urgent procedures will lengthen, but the Trust will aim to mitigate against this as far as is practical, and as with the elective recovery following the first wave of the pandemic, it will strive to re-start/increase its elective activities as soon as it is practical to do so.
“Given the rapidly evolving position across the system further changes to service provision may need to be implemented at short notice. The Trust will endeavour to advise its key partners of any further changes in service provision as soon as is practical via further structured updates.
“It is also important to note that any decisions to reduce the level of service provision are not taken lightly and the Trust would like to take this opportunity to thank all partners for their on-going understanding and support during this difficult period. The Trust also recognises the additional burden being placed on colleagues in primary care and other health and social care services across the system.”
The hospital documents go on to detail the support initiatives put in place for staff continuing to work under immense pressure, including a ‘wobble room’ stocked with provisions, food deliveries for areas under pressure, webinars for staff, psychological support for each ward area and unit, and a ‘Feel Good’ trolley service.
A need for a “longer term plan” is identified by the hospital, which has noted not just the current impact on staff, but expects “lasting ramifications or longer term impact.”
Documents further confirm that the “vast majority” of unplanned care and emergency care services are continuing in the hospital as normal, including those from the emergency department, maternity, neo-natal and community-based services, with Paradoc and the GP Out of Hours service also still functioning normally.
Inpatient paediatric emergency care continues to work out of the Royal London since the decision was made to transfer it on 23 December due to the greater requirement for oxygen throughout the hospital, though the children’s emergency area in the Homerton’s emergency department is still operating.
While a daily day case list for cancer patients is being run at the hospital, inpatient elective work for cancer patients is not due to bed pressure as a result of Covid, with the colorectal cancer surgery usually done at the Homerton transferred to the London Independent Hospital for those who need to stay in a bed post-surgery.
Elective non-cancer patients, meanwhile, are being prioritised, with capacity only being used for clinically urgent patients, day case procedures, and surgical terminations of pregnancies.
Other services are more significantly affected, including the Homerton’s unit for neuro-rehabilitation which will now be suspended until 31 March to cover an acute inpatient ward.
Meanwhile, wait times for the hospital’s Locomotor Service, which specialises in musculoskeletal physiotherapy and pain, have lengthened as a result of staff absence and redeployment, and the Homerton’s sexual health services at Leadenhall, Ivy and John Scott clinics have also been temporarily closed, again due to staff redeployment and absence.
Endoscopies at the hospital are being prioritised for those suspected to have cancer, clinically urgent patients and inpatients, with the Trust further advising that only urgent patients be sent in for x-rays.
Chief Executive Tracey Fletcher added: “Staffing has been incredibly stretched in the need to respond to the additional beds that have been opened. We have been operating at staffing ratios that, although have maintained a safe service, are far from how we would wish the level of support for our wards.
“Many members of staff have been redeployed to jobs supporting the wards and critical care including staff in corporate and support roles to assist in roles such as a ward clerk to answer telephones and coordinate dealing with queries.
“Staff redeployment has proven to be extremely helpful to those pressured areas and thanks are given to those who have volunteered to be redeployed.”
If you would like to help the Homerton in any way, you can email email@example.com.
The Homerton’s GoFundMe page is here.
You can find out more about the Homerton Hope Charity here.