PATIENTS are being warned not to delay treatment as a result of the coronavirus

There is some evidence from emergency units has decreased since the start of pandemic, and there are concerns that some patients are too afraid to attend hospital, or are worried about over-burdening the system. 

Hospitals have been altering their services to safeguard the provision of specialist services, including cancer care.

James Cook University Hospital has effectively been split into two units - one for coronavirus patients and one for remaining services.

Professor Chris Gray, clinical lead for the North East and North Cumbria Integrated Care System (ICS) has urged people to still attend hospital if necessary.

He said: “It’s important for our communities to know that the NHS is here for them, if they need it. If you’re seriously ill please don’t delay because you’re concerned about putting pressure on our services or frightened because of COVID-19.

“There is some evidence to show that the number of people attending emergency departments with heart attacks and strokes is lower than normal. So we want to make sure that there isn’t any confusion in our communities about what they should do if they really need the help of the NHS.

“There are a lot of messages out there so it can be confusing. While we have asked people to use services sensibly and postponed some non-urgent appointments and operations - we are here if you need us, and please don’t delay seeking help. 

“And if you need treatment please be reassured our services are organising themselves so that care can be provided in non-COVID areas as much as possible and staff are following the strictest infection control guidelines.”

South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has made changes at James Cook University Hospital, in Middlesbrough, to try and reassure patients.

From this week, the hospital has effectively been divided into two units – a COVID unit and a non-COVID unit.

A spokesperson for the trust said the move was aimed at reassuring and protecting patients and staff while also safeguarding the provision of specialist care such as cancer services and the hospital’s heart unit.

As a result of this change, there is no longer any public access to the hospital via the North Entrance.

All patients and staff from non-COVID areas are being asked to use the South Entrance, Bridge Entrance or Women and Children’s Entrance to gain access to the main hospital.

The COVID unit will, as far as reasonably possible, operate as a separate site with its own domestic staff, porters and resuscitation teams and separate staff catering facilities and rest areas. 

There is also a new temporary entrance for patients attending the renal unit and the renal day unit which can now be accessed via the main mall (South Entrance) opposite the outpatients pharmacy.

Clinical director for general surgery Matt Clarke said: “We have made these changes to protect our patients and our staff and to enable our expert clinicians to prioritise cancer treatment and other clinically urgent care at the same time as ramping up our ability to treat patients with respiratory conditions. 

“Some non-urgent appointments and operations have been postponed, but we want people to know that we are here if they need us, so please don’t delay asking for medical help.

“Routine care is being carried out, where possible, through telephone calls or video links so you will not be asked to attend hospital unless absolutely necessary and staff are following the strictest infection control guidelines.”

The North Entrance closure means there is also no access to the hospital’s chapel, but chaplaincy services can still be requested by calling the chaplaincy helpline on 07961 934779 or 07540 774970.

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