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Coronavirus – latest information and advice

Last updated: Wednesday 8 April 2020

COVID-19 is a new illness that can affect your lungs and airways. It's caused by a virus called coronavirus.

For all the latest information including the risk of COVID-19 in the UK, symptoms of Coronavirus, how it is spread and advice around public places and self-isolation, visit the NHS website (opens in new window).

Visitors to our hospitals

The following visitor restictions apply to Epsom Hospital, St Helier Hospital, Molesey Hospital, Dorking Hospital and NEECH.

To continue to keep our patients and staff safe, we will no longer be allowing visitors to any of our adult inpatient wards. We kindly ask family members to instead keep in touch via telephone or video calls, where possible.

Exceptions to visitor restrictions will be made only in the following circumstances, and only with the consent of the nurse in charge:

  • If a patient is receiving end-of-life care
  • Children under 16 on our inpatient wards – one visitor allowed at a time
  • Women in labour in our maternity unit – one birthing partner allowed.

Thank you for your cooperation and patience during this time.

For the latest guidance and advice about Coronavirus (COVID-19) please visit www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/.

Phoning inpatients

Patients can call for free from the Hospedia terminals to 01, 02, 03 telephone numbers. Without paying any fee, patients can receive phone calls on a personalised phone number. All they need to do is register their details to get started. By registering, they get their own phone number to give to friends and family. Friends and family call the number the patient gives them and they will be connected directly to the patient. This is an 07 phone number so charges apply for people calling in.

We would like to thank all patients and visitors for their support, patience and co-operation. We appreciate these restrictions and measures will cause concern but our focus is to maintain patient safety and prevent the spread of infection. If you’d like further information, please contact the Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS) at est-tr.PALS@nhs.net.

'Letters for loved ones' - helping people stay connected

To help families, friends and carers keep in touch, we have set up a ‘Letters for loved ones’ initiative. If a family member, friend or carer would like to write a letter and, if they wish to, include a couple of photographs, they can email esth.lettersforlovedones@nhs.net. They will need to provide the patient’s name and date of birth, and (if they know it) the ward in which they are being cared for.

Our Patient Experience and Partnership Team will print letters and photos received, note who/where they are for, laminate them and ensure they reach the right ward (we will try to make deliveries every day, Monday to Friday). If you have any questions regarding the above or need any help, please call our Patient Experience and Partnership Team on 020 8296 4325 (9am - 5pm, Monday to Friday – please leave a message if we are unable to take your call).

Advice for those with appointments at our hospitals

Patients should continue to attend their appointment as usual unless informed otherwise or if they have specific concerns around COVID-19 or have returned from one the countries listed as having a higher risk of Coronavirus. 

Temporary changes to our services

All of our staff are working incredibly hard to care for our patients in what are very difficult times.  To keep patients and our staff safe we are having to make some urgent temporary changes to some of our services. This is a direct result of the increase in the numbers of patients we are treating with COVID-19, the staffing challenges we are facing due to sickness or self-isolation and the need to provide safe care for all of our patients. The temporary changes we have made are:

Elective (planned) care

In line with NHS England national guidance, in order to create the capacity we need to manage the increasing number of patients with suspected or confirmed COVID-19, we have postponed almost all planned (elective) procedures and operations. We have protected urgent treatment for cancer or other specific groups of patients whose treatment cannot be deferred or provided by other means and urgent operations are now being carried out at Ashtead and St Anthony’s hospitals. We understand this will be difficult news for our patients and we have contacted them directly to explain and to offer our sincere apologies.

This change has meant that temporarily we have been able to re-purpose facilities in the South West London Elective Orthopaedic Centre (SWLEOC) at Epsom Hospital to create an extra 30 to 55 intensive care beds.

Maternity services

In maternity services, we are currently able to keep both Epsom and St Helier maternity units open. However, due to staffing levels and theatre capacity at Epsom, we have temporarily transferred all elective caesarean-sections to St Helier Hospital. We have contacted all those women affected to explain this change with our apologies. This will mean some women will have to travel further for their elective caesareans, but it means we can maintain capacity for any emergency caesarean procedures and provide safe care for women and their babies.

Homebirth services

The maternity team at Epsom and St Helier Hospitals are committed to the absolute safety of our mothers, babies and staff.  In light of the current Covid-19 situation and nationwide lock-down, we took the decision to suspend the homebirth service on 25 March 2020 in response to concerns around ambulance response times and maternity staffing.

We have today reviewed the situation and now have assurance that both London and South East Coast Ambulance services are back to usual response times.  Our maternity staffing is currently also maintained at a safe level.  We are therefore pleased to be able to reinstate the home birth service at this time, with the following caveats:

  • The woman and all members of her household are not displaying any signs of Covid-19 
  • Only one birth partner is in attendance

Unfortunately, we are unable to facilitate water births at this time due to uncertainty around virus in bodily fluids and the increased risk in water, along with enhanced requirement for PPE in this environment.

We will review the situation twice daily to ensure the ambulance and staffing requirements continue to be manageable. 

Stroke services

We are unable to maintain safe stroke services at both St Helier and Epsom hospitals while we are caring for the increased numbers of patients with COVID-19. We need to bring together all of our specialist stroke staff to care for our vulnerable stroke patients.

On a temporary basis we have move the St Helier Acute Stroke Unit to be co-located with the Epsom service at Epsom Hospital. All of the specialist staff and equipment from St Helier Hospital have been moved to Epsom Hospital, to ensure safe levels of staffing and to provide specialist stroke care, ensuring that we can maintain the same number of stroke beds. Epsom will continue to operate as a Hyper Acute Stroke Unit, as well as an Acute Stroke Unit, within the Surrey stroke network.

More care outside of hospital

Through our Sutton Health and Care and Surrey Downs Health and Care partnerships, we have increased the numbers of patients being cared for outside of the hospital, at home and in other settings, to create extra capacity in our hospitals. 

Guidance for parents

Guidance for parents

When your child is ill or injured it is very difficult to decide if/when to call
your child’s GP, NHS 111 or go the Accident and Emergency Department
(A&E). During the current situation and while the government is asking
everyone to stay at home, it can be confusing to know what to do.

Here is some guidance:

COVID-19 latest advice and guidance

Stay at Home: Guidance for people with confirmed or possible coronavirus (COVID-19) infection

Stay at home if you have either:

  • a high temperature – you feel hot to touch on your chest or back
  • a new, continuous cough – this means you've started coughing repeatedly

Do not go to a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital. You do not need to contact 111 to tell them you're staying at home. Testing for coronavirus is not needed if you're staying at home.

How long to stay at home

  • If you have symptoms stay at home for 7 days
  • If you live with other people, they should stay at home for 14 days from the day the first person got symptoms
  • If you live with someone who is 70 or over, has a long-term condition, is pregnant or has a weakened immune system, try to find somewhere else for them to stay for 14 days
  • If you have to stay at home together, try to keep away from each other as much as possible.

Advice on staying at home can be found here (opens in new window).

Use the NHS 111 online coronavirus service if:

  • you feel you cannot cope with your symptoms at home
  • your condition gets worse
  • your symptoms do not get better after 7 days

Only call 111 if you cannot get help online.

New advice to avoid catching and spreading coronavirus (social distancing)

Everyone should do what they can to stop coronavirus spreading.

It is particularly important for people who:

  • are 70 or over
  • have a long-term condition
  • are pregnant
  • have a weakened immune system.
Do
  • wash your hands with soap and water often – do this for at least 20 seconds
  • always wash your hands when you get home or into work
  • use hand sanitiser gel if soap and water are not available
  • cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze
  • put used tissues in the bin immediately and wash your hands afterwards
  • avoid close contact with people who have symptoms of coronavirus
  • only travel on public transport if you need to
  • work from home, if you can
  • avoid social activities, such as going to pubs, restaurants, theatres and cinemas
  • avoid events with large groups of people
  • use phone, online services, or apps to contact your GP surgery or other NHS services
Don't
  • do not touch your eyes, nose or mouth if your hands are not clean
  • do not have visitors to your home, including friends and family

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