Barts Health staff tell the story of the pandemic in their words
The impact of coronavirus is already unprecedented. The NHS now faces another unique challenge with a resurgence of Covid-19 cases - just as we are restoring planned care to previous levels, and as the usual seasonal pressures begin to bite. Our staff responded incredibly well to the first peak, and we have learned lessons from our experience. We are therefore better prepared to meet this next challenge.
The Barts Health Youtube channel also has more helpful guidance and information you may wish to take a look at.
Latest update on coronavirus at Barts Health hospitals
This page has been created to provide information on coronavirus cases at Barts Health hospitals and will be updated daily except for weekends and bank holidays.
As of 8am on 5th May 2021 at Barts Health hospitals:
- 31 in-patients have laboratory confirmed Covid-19.
- Of those with confirmed Covid-19, 0 were newly diagnosed in the previous 24 hours.
- 7 patients with confirmed Covid-19 are being cared for in critical care beds, or are on enhanced levels of oxygen.
As of 5pm on 4th May 2021 at Barts Health hospitals:
- 1822 patients hospitalised with confirmed Covid-19 have sadly died.
- For the same period 13,103 inpatients hospitalised with confirmed Covid-19 have recovered and have been discharged.
In remembrance of our colleagues
It is with deep sadness to announce that we have lost nine members of the Barts Health family: Miharajiya Mohideen – known as Raji to colleagues – a healthcare assistant on Tayberry ward at Newham Hospital; Mr Van Lang Hoang, patient transport driver; Mark Woolcock, ambulance care assistant; Dr Habibhai Babu – known to all of us as Babu – an SHO older people’s services at Whipps Cross Hospital; Vincent Lawlor – sexual health advisor at The Royal London Hospital; Jeff Edwards – former porter at Whipps Cross Hospital; Greg (Grzegorz) Serwin – health records porter working at The Royal London Hospital and across Barts Health NHS Trust; Emmanuel ‘Manny’ Okoro – patient transport team; Elias Phiri – sexual health advisor at The Royal London Hospital.
Guidance for patients and visitors on our services during the coronavirus pandemic.
Read our plans to treat Covid-19 patients at the peak of pandemic
We have published our Peak operating plan summary for the Covid-19 pandemic[pdf] 4MB to treat and care for a potentially huge increase in Covid-19 patients at the peak of the pandemic in a few weeks’ time.
The plan involves a major reorganisation of both clinical and support services across our group of hospitals to manage a large influx of infectious patients with this new respiratory illness.
By mid-April, we will be looking after more Covid-19 inpatients, in more beds than we currently in our five hospitals, and moving them more promptly back into the community when they are better. The plan sets out how we intend to:
- Achieve a ten-fold increase in intensive care beds (with ventilators), including using the 14th and 15th floors of The Royal London and supporting the new temporary NHS Nightingale Hospital at the Excel Centre in Newham
- Allocate as many general beds as possible to recovering Covid-19 patients at The Royal London, Newham and Whipps Cross, and work with local partners (including private hospitals) to create extra general beds (eg at Mile End)
- Retrain and redeploy large numbers of clinical staff to care for Covid-19 patients in line with expert advice on clinical management and safe staffing
- Reorganise clinical and support services (including estates, transport, informatics and procurement) to enable a timely transformation to take place
- Maintain critical services like emergency care; plus trauma and stroke at The Royal London; heart attack response at St Bartholomew’s; and paediatric and maternity services at Whipps Cross, Newham and The Royal London.
We have already switched the majority of our outpatient services to be virtual clinics via video or on the telephone, suspended most elective surgery, and redesigned care for vulnerable groups like cancer and renal patients. Teams are also working closely with GPs and community services to support more recovering patients closer to home.
Alwen Williams, group chief executive, said: “I know all of us feel a deep motivation to do everything we can to ensure the NHS does its utmost to respond to these challenges. We have already shown at Barts Health over the last five years that we can achieve great things. These steady and important achievements have left us in a strong position to meet the challenges we now face.
“In times of crisis, our values and our pride in the services we deliver to the public come to the fore and shine through. And in times of crisis, it is even more important that we have a clear plan of action so that all of our efforts can be directed to a common goal. This document summarises the plans we are making at Barts Health, plans we know will need to adapt and change, but plans which I hope will allow us all to succeed in the weeks ahead.”
Recovering from the first phase of the pandemic
- We have marked another significant milestone in our recovery to a new pattern of hospital business as usual.
- Cancer operations are restarting as theatre capacity comes back on stream.
This week marks another significant milestone in our recovery to a new pattern of hospital business as usual with the return in-house of cancer surgery that was taken off-site earlier in the pandemic.
Operations for gynaecological cancers are restarting first, followed by procedures for liver and pancreatic cancers, then brain and colorectal cancers too as theatre capacity comes back on stream.
We are proud to have continued to provide urgent cancer treatment throughout the first phase of the pandemic, including chemotherapy, radiotherapy and interventional radiology.
In particular, as part of London-wide arrangements to ensure the highest risk patients were treated, St Bartholomew’s continued to perform thoracic, breast, lung and eye surgery.
However as a temporary measure, many other operations (including all elective surgery) were performed in private hospitals. This was paid for by the NHS and used our own doctors and anaesthetists as part of a national agreement with the independent sector. Over 300 of our patients were treated this way last week, taking the total to more than 2,000 since the start of the pandemic.
Restarting the postponed elective operations in-house is more complex than it was to put them on hold, and is being done in stages as our hospitals make progress with setting up Covid-free (‘green’) zones.
Patients awaiting surgery are prioritised according to how soon clinically they need it. The first elective restarts at Whipps Cross were on 8 June, with over 50 day cases done since. The first inpatient was admitted on Monday and by next week the hospital will be averaging a dozen operations a day. The Royal London’s new ‘green’ theatres on the 3rd floor also opened on Monday, with 88 patients booked this week.
The Barts Health Orthopaedic Centre at Newham restarted at the same time and over 80 patients had endoscopies or minor procedures. Meanwhile St Bartholomew’s is doing about 30 cardiac cases a week, compared to around 40 pre-Covid.
One issue all hospitals are facing is patients cancelling their operations, either because they are worried about catching Covid-19 or they cannot meet the requirement to self-isolate for up to a fortnight before and after the procedure.
We are working hard to reassure patients and the public that are hospitals are safe. All staff are urged to share with their friends and families the short videos we are making with clinicians and nurses to show how staff and patients are protected.
Alistair Chesser, Chief Medical Officer, said: “The commitment of all our staff to getting our elective services up and running again has been incredible. Each hospital has had to redesign its theatre schedules and set up sophisticated zoning systems which will ensure our patients will stay safe when under our care. This is a fantastic achievement.”
Read about how we will be living with Covid-19
As schools, shops and businesses reopen, and memories of the national lockdown fade, it is tempting to think the worst of the Covid-19 pandemic is behind us. The pattern of coronavirus cases in our hospitals has certainly flattened out. More than 2,600 patients have recovered from serious illness, and only a handful of new patients – if any - are now admitted each day. Fortunately, too, deaths from the disease in our hospitals have become much rarer. Yet the fact that over 650 of our patients tragically died from this still relatively unknown respiratory disease is a reminder that Covid-19 is still with us and poses a continuous threat. It has also changed the NHS for ever.
Our hospitals look quite different to the casual visitor because of the necessary steps we are taking to keep our staff and patients safe. Infection prevention and control remains our top priority, and departments are now divided into zones so coronavirus cases can be treated in isolation. All staff and visitors must wear face masks in public and patient areas. Sickness absence among staff remains noticeably higher than normal, and is likely to remain so for some time to come. Yet over the last months, our staff rose magnificently to meet the continuing challenge. They enthusiastically embraced new ways of working to enable us to restart those treatments put on hold, and begin to recover the backlog.
This document updates the story of our response to Covid-19 that we published at the beginning of June, and builds on the initial plans for the future we set out at the time. This remains work in progress, with much depending on decisions to be taken at national level. The Government has funded the extra costs of responding to Covid-19 so far, for example, but NHS resources remain stretched and we await clarity about future financial arrangements. However we do know that the NHS is expected to rapidly recover the lost ground, and plan for contingencies like winter or a second spike.
Significantly, this report also shows how seriously we are taking the equity challenge posed by the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on BAME staff, patients and our local communities. Inspired by the #BlackLivesMatter movement following the tragic death of George Floyd, and the lived experience of our staff, we are determined to eliminate discrimination and racial inequality at Barts Health.
This renewed ambition is an integral part of achieving our vision to be a high-performing group of NHS hospitals, renowned for excellence and innovation, and providing safe and compassionate care to our patients in east London and beyond. As we continue to respond to the ongoing Covid crisis, we are on an exciting journey to create a truly inclusive organisation that lives and breathes the WeCare values to which we all aspire.
Read our plans for winter 2020-21
We’ve been working on plans to help us manage the increased demand for hospital services the NHS faces every winter, with the additional challenge of the ongoing pandemic.
Our winter plan [pdf] 13MB sets out how we will prepare for and manage these enhanced seasonal pressures, while also maintaining access to planned services as far as possible.
The plan incorporates what we learned from the first peak, and working closely with our partners across North East London (NEL).
The approach will pool local NHS resources in four key areas, emergency care, critical care, planned care and community care.
Alwen William, Group Chief Executive, said: “The impact of coronavirus is already unprecedented. The NHS now faces another unique challenge with a resurgence of Covid-19 cases - just as we are restoring planned care to previous levels, and as the usual seasonal pressures begin to bite.
“Our staff responded incredibly well to the first peak, and we have learned lessons from our experience. We are therefore better prepared to meet this next challenge. We are hoping for the best, but preparing for the worst. We don’t know exactly how events will turn out in the end.
“Nevertheless, I am confident our committed and talented staff will do their utmost to keep patients safe. Together we will continue to improve health outcomes for our patients and provide equitable care to our diverse communities throughout this coming winter.”
The plan also outlines the five stages of escalating pressure we’ve identified, as well as what we have in place to make sure staff are looked after and supported to care for our patients, and how we will work with our local communities.
A pilot already taking place at The Royal London Hospital, 111 First, is being launched officially by NHS London on Monday (26 October). The initiative aims to get the public to contact NHS 111 online or by phone first, before going to a hospital A&E, if they have an urgent but non-life-threatening medical issue.
From 1 December, 111 can arrange an urgent face-to-face A&E appointment during an allocated timeslot anywhere in London, meaning shorter waiting times and fewer people in A&E.
Read more about some of our plans in action
A winter like no other
This winter our hospitals treated more than double the number of Covid-19 patients than we did during the first wave.
A Winter Like No Other [pdf] 10MB sets out the inspiring story of how our staff rose to the challenge posed by the second wave, and is also the tale of how our diverse east London communities continue to be disproportionately affected by Covid-19. Understanding this impact, and using the insight we obtain, will be key part of our planning for the next phase.
Like its predecessors, this brochure is dedicated to the memory of those members of the Barts Health family who lost their lives from the coronavirus.
Yet we hope it also serves as a fitting tribute to the care, compassion and kindness shown by our staff and supporters, who have safely treated almost 13,000 people for Covid-19, the overwhelming majority of whom recovered.
Our task now is to balance maintaining our Covid-19, emergency and vaccination services; introducing a breathing space for staff to rest and recuperate; and planning a phased restoration of those services put on hold. With hope for the future inspired by our experience of the last few months, we move forward in the spirit of our ongoing #WeBelong campaign to become a truly inclusive healthcare organisation.