Coronavirus – latest information and advice
Last updated: Thursday 11 June 2020
COVID-19 is an 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).
Message from our CEO Daniel Elkeles
The number of seriously ill patients with COVID-19 in our hospitals continues to follow the national downward trend, however we know that COVID-19 will be with us for some time. This means that we need to continue to adjust both the way we work and our environment.
We want to make sure that our patients and our staff are as safe as possible and that we can care for both emergency patients and those requiring our outpatient and elective services. Within the constraints of our buildings we want to ensure that people coming for a planned care procedure access dedicated areas of our hospitals. This means that over the next few weeks you will see some changes to where you enter our buildings and how you move around them.
For outpatients we will be continuing to provide telephone and video consultations, where it is possible and appropriate, and only physically see those patients who need to see us face to face. We are having to adjusting waiting rooms and clinic rooms, to enable social distancing.
If you, or someone you know, needs medical attention but have been reluctant to do so, please be assured that GP, community and hospital services are all still available and we can all safely treat the people who need our services.
You may not be seen in the same way as you have in the past, but we are still here and can see you safely.
I would like to end by saying a huge thank you to everyone who has supported our staff – either through kind words, pictures and thoughts or donations – it has meant so much.
Coronavirus - latest information and advice 2
Most outpatient appointments will take place over the telephone or via a video call. Please do not come in unless we tell you to.
We are reintroducing essential face-to-face outpatient appointments. If you have received an appointment please follow the following:
- You must wear a face covering when coming to your outpatient appointment.
- Face coverings are compulsory for all patients and visitors in all areas of our hospitals, clinics and health centres. Please make sure you are wearing a face covering before you enter any of our buildings.
- If you have had any of these symptoms in the past seven days do not visit or attend hospital:
- a high temperature – this means you feel hot to touch on your chest or back (you do not need to measure your temperature);
- a new, continuous cough – this means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or three or more coughing episodes in 24 hours (if you usually have a cough, it may be worse than usual);
- a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste – this means you've noticed you cannot smell or taste anything, or things smell or taste different to normal.
If you have come into contact with someone with a confirmed case of COVID-19 in the last 14 days or have been advised by the Track and Trace team to isolate in the last 14 days you should not attend hospital. Please use the phone number on your outpatient appointment letter to contact us if you are not going to be able to attend your appointment.
If you bring anyone with you for the appointment they will not be able to enter the building unless they are absolutely required to support you. Anyone who accompanies you must also wear a face covering and not have had any COVID-19 symptoms in the last seven days (high temperature, a new continuous cough, or a loss or change to smell and taste) or been advised by the Track and Trace team to isolate within the last 14 days.
As you enter our buildings you will go through one of our friendly checkpoints to ensure it is safe for you to go in and so that you receive help if you need it.
As we increase the number of services and number of face to face appointments, we will be changing the entrances and exits to our buildings. We will ensure our website is updated with all of these changes which will come into place over the coming weeks.
Visitors to our hospitals
We are reintroducing visiting for our patients however, for this immediate period we will have to limit this to one named family member or carer per patient. Exceptional circumstances will be considered by the Ward Sister, charge nurse or Matron.
You also should not visit if you are vulnerable as a result of your medication, a chronic illness, or are over 70 years of age.
Also do not visit if for any reason you are experiencing the following:
- feeling unwell, especially
- if you have a high temperature
- a new, persistent cough
- or have a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste.
Before you visit you need to telephone the ward and confirm you do have not had any COVID-19 symptoms within the past 14 days.
When visiting or attending for any hospital appointment you need to wear a face covering as you arrive at the hospital and at all times when you are in the hospital grounds, including on the ward and in outpatients.
No children under the age of 12 should be visiting.
If you are visiting paediatrics and neonatal services, two visitors wearing face coverings are allowed and this may include a child under 12.
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/.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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
During the COVID-19 pandemic, in line with NHS England national guidance, we had to postponed almost all planned (elective) procedures and operations. We protected urgent treatment for cancer or other specific groups of patients whose treatment cannot be deferred or provided by other means and urgent operations were carried out at Ashtead and St Anthony’s hospitals.
This meant that temporarily we had 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. We are now looking to reintroduce some essential face to face outpatient and planned care appointments and are letting our patients know.
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.
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.
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.
- 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
- 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