The NHS has outlined plans for a return to ‘normal’, with the aim of getting non-Covid19 urgent services back on track by mid-June.
In a letter from NHS England to local health trusts and GPs, preparations are set out for the ‘second phase’ of the UK’s response to the Coronavirus crisis. This involves the return of urgent outpatient and diagnostic appointments and routine elective surgery, as well as cancer referrals being brought back to pre-pandemic levels.
In the letter, health professionals are thanked for a ‘remarkable NHS response to the greatest global health emergency in our history.’ And, while the plans aim to tackle waiting lists and a drop of 63% in emergency hospital admissions - caused by patients staying away due to fears around the virus - it is hoped that many working practices introduced during Covid19 will remain, such as flexibility, remote working where possible and digital consultations.
NHS bosses say that the pressure on staff will remain ‘unprecedented’ in the weeks and months ahead, with employees from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds at greater risk from the virus. Routine testing will be offered to all staff, including those who have no symptoms, and BAME health professionals and other workers should be risk-assessed as a precaution.
The recommendations include:
- restarting routine elective surgery, with priority given to ‘long waiters’
- Strengthening 111 capacity and sustaining appropriate ambulance services
- Proactively contacting high-risk patients to educate them on when they might need hospital care
- Assessing all acute and community hospital admission patients daily for discharge
- Maintaining essential cancer surgery and other services in line with guidance from the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges and the NHS
- Prioritising capacity for acute cardiac surgery and services
The letter also includes guidance for maternity, mental health, primary care and community services.
Throughout the Covid19 pandemic, GP surgeries and hospitals have witnessed a reduction in people seeking care as they usually would, due to fears around contracting the virus or putting extra pressure on the NHS. There has also been a decrease in road traffic accidents, due to fewer vehicles on the road, with the NHS braced for a ‘rebound’ in emergency admissions as lockdown restrictions ease.
Last month, the NHS urged anyone with concerns or potential cancer symptoms not to delay seeking medical advice. The NHS and the private healthcare industry are working together to tackle Covid19, with partners bringing in new measures to help customers during the crisis. For example, Bupa has introduced a new coronavirus hub, with regular updates, support and advice and a series of articles to help members stay healthy during the pandemic.
Having the right health insurance can give you access to a number of benefits at this worrying time, including increased cash payments for overnight stays in hospital and access to helplines and counselling. A range of our partners offer phone and ‘virtual’ GP consultations, which can be a relief when you can’t see a doctor face to face or visit your local clinic. For more information, compare health insurance quotes and benefits online.