Patients in the Burnham-On-Sea area who need planned treatments are being invited to take up re-scheduled dates for care, as the NHS returns to the ‘new normal’.

With the number of people in hospitals with COVID-19 continuing to decline, services across the South West are gearing up to work their way through the backlog of patients who had their treatments cancelled at the height of the pandemic.

NHS South West says that over the coming weeks those people who need important planned procedures – including surgery – will begin to be scheduled for that care, with specialists prioritising those with the most urgent clinical need.

The importance of tackling the backlog caused by the pandemic was highlighted in a letter from NHS Chief Executive Sir Simon Stevens to hospitals and commissioners on Friday (31st July).

This called for the focus between now and winter to be on “accelerating the return to near-normal levels of non-Covid health services… making full use of the NHS capacity currently available, as well as re-contracted independent hospitals.”

He adds: “In setting clear performance expectations there is a careful balance to be struck between the need to be ambitious and stretching for our patients so as to avoid patient harm, while setting performance level that is deliverable, recognising that each trust will have its own particular pattern of constraints to overcome.”

Priority will be given to people in greatest clinical need, followed by those who have been waiting longest.

Dr Michael Marsh, Medical Director at NHS England and Improvement said: “This is a very positive step in the restoration of services in the South West. Whilst the numbers of outstanding electives are large, we know we can work through this with the help of patients who need treatment.”

“Inevitably there will continue to be delays as a result of the cancellation of services earlier this year which have created a backlog however, rest assured those people in need of treatment will receive it as soon as practicably possible.”

“We all appreciate it is a nerve-wracking time but there are a great deal of stringent measures in place to protect both our patients and staff. It’s essential we now move forward and reduce our backlogs as soon as we can with the help of the public.”

And when they arrive, staff will be using the correct infection-control measures and protective equipment.

Prof Adrian Harris, Medical Director at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital, said: “It’s perfectly understandable that people may have a number of worries about coming into hospital.”

“However, I want to reassure people that we’re open for business and the acute hospitals are safe. If you feel you need to be seen, whether it’s for an outpatient appointment or in the emergency department, come to hospital. We will help you in the safest possible manner.”

“We’re now seeing about two thirds of the patients we’d like to see and we are concerned that some people are not attending urgent appointments that could potentially be lifesaving.”

Claire Stanley recently underwent day surgery for a hip repair and she says: “I had a lot of fear and unease about going into hospital for surgery during these difficult times, but the doctors and nurses were reassuring, and the information provided to me was very clear.”

“I isolated, had a COVID test at a drive-thru facility and then was admitted for day surgery. On the day stringent checks were carried out and I was made to feel at complete ease. I had surgery and was home within eight hours.”

“Since my recovery has taken pace virtually with bi-weekly calls from the physios and in a few weeks, I will see my consultant face to face to ensure all went to plan. I would urge anyone who is given the opportunity to receive treatment, you’re in safe hands.”

As well as the requirements for those needing operations, as many outpatient appointments as possible will be conducted remotely, and those who do need a face to face consultation will be asked not to attend if they have COVID symptoms.

Those requiring a long hospital stay will be continuously monitored for symptoms and re-tested between 5 and 7 days after admission, and those who are due to be discharged to a care home will be tested up to 48 hours before they are due to leave.

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