“We have robust arrangements in place” – how we're responding to the rise of Omicron | Our news

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“We have robust arrangements in place” – how we're responding to the rise of Omicron

Barts Health clinician wearing PPE in our hospital, nurse or doctor

The Omicron variant is spreading fast in London and we're updating existing winter escalation plans to keep our teams safe so we can continue to treat our patients.

We're now in a level 4 national incident. Covid admissions to our hospitals have doubled in the last month, and we anticipate greater demand through January.

We're balancing the risk across all our patients – those coming in through the front door, those staying as inpatients, and those leaving – so that those who need care the most receive it at the right time. We're also committed to the wellbeing of our staff as we ask them to be prepared to work flexibly so we can respond to the challenge.

Protecting our people

One thing we can all do is ensure we have had a booster jab, as this is the most effective protection against Omicron. Vaccination teams are active on all our hospital sites and we will soon be playing our part in the national roll-out by vaccinating members of the public. We're looking for volunteers who might have spare time to help us expand the hospital vaccination hubs at Newham, Whipps Cross, St Bartholomew's and Mile End, and also our outreach teams, so we can offer jabs in the community.

Urgent and emergency care

Given likely pressures in A&E, we need to ensure patients don’t stay in hospital any longer than they need, especially in the run-up to Christmas. We're working with local partners to further improve discharge arrangements.

Planned care

We will continue to deliver elective activity as best we can, prioritising clinically urgent cases and those waiting longest for treatment.

Controlling infection

Omicron is easier to catch than previous Covid-19 variants so basic precautions like mask wearing, social distancing and handwashing remain paramount. Staff, patients and visitors should observe IPC guidance at all times. Anyone coming into work must do a lateral flow test at least twice a week, and to protect both staff and patients we unfortunately need to tighten access for visitors.

We can rise to this latest challenge

Our group chief executive Alwen Williams said: “I'm immensely grateful to everyone in Team Barts Health for their hard work and commitment to our patients in these difficult times.

“We face a very fast-moving situation, and are managing our response in real time. I'm confident we have robust arrangements in place and the right people to deliver them. Although aspects of Omicron are uncertain, we have been here before in previous waves, and I'm confident we can rise to this latest challenge.”

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