Number of Covid patients at Shropshire hospitals almost drops to zero

The number of Covid patients being cared for at Shropshire's main hospitals has almost dropped to zero.

Royal Shrewsbury Hospital
Royal Shrewsbury Hospital

There were just two coronavirus patients in the care of hospitals this week – compared to 165 at the end of January.

The rapid decline provides a welcome respite for staff at Royal Shrewsbury Hospital and Telford's Princess Royal, where 554 patients have died since the pandemic started.

But health bosses warned it is unknown when conditions will ever return to a pre-Covid normal.

Hayley Flavell, director of nursing at Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust, said there were two patients in its care as of Wednesday and its hospitals were no longer dealing with any coronavirus outbreaks.

However, the trust's board of directors were told Covid-safe measures will continue to be in place and certain ways of working may never return.

John Jones, SaTH's deputy medical director, added: "None of us know whether the wave from Europe is going to have the impact; there's a significant uncertainty about that.

"It is a new normal and I don't think any of us really foresees mask wearing, social distancing, numbers of occupants in rooms, minimising access to high risk areas, how long that goes on for.

"A really difficult area which I know people are struggling with is when it's more in someone's interest to be coming to hospital for outpatient appointments for example, and when it's not and having a virtual appointment.

"That's difficult. I think we are all struggling with that balance.

"There's different levels of risks for different individuals. I think the balance is swinging – we're inviting more patients to come, but I don't think we'll ever get back to normal where everyone comes for everything."

Options

Waiting lists for patients awaiting routine operations and procedures have also grown massively during the pandemic, with figures showing that 3,456 patients had been waiting more than a year to start treatment at SaTH in February.

Bosses say those with urgent and life-threatening conditions are prioritised.

But Sara Biffen, deputy chief operating officer, says plans are being put in place to reduce backlogs as quickly as possible.

She said: "We tried back in September and October to do the recovery programme but obviously Covid was back with us in phase three so as a consequence of that we were unable to deliver some of the recovery programme that we set out to do.

"So a group of us now are working together on a plan for our recovery which takes into consideration all of our cancer patients and our elective routine operating and our diagnostics, together with an A&E improvement performance that we need to make.

"We are working hard on that and working within the guidelines of still we have to social distance and all the PPE requirements we have to make.

"We will be pulling together a paper that will be presented to our finance and performance committee going forward about the options available to us to recover our referral to treatment performance."

She said a plan could be presented at the end of April showing the options available and clinical teams were carrying out regular reviews to make sure patients on waiting lists are not coming to any harm.

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