Managing the pandemic

Managing the pandemic

Read our plans to treat Covid-19 patients at the peak of 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.”

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