As we move into the next stage of the COVID-19 pandemic I'd like to use my message to describe the approach we are going to take to restore and recover services.
Safety for you and patients remains our absolute priority and we have set a new 'North Star' objective within the 'Together we Care' strategy and outlined a new operating model for the Trust that seeks to:
"End health and care acquired infections for the team, patients and the community we serve."
"North Star" refers to the aspirational nature of the goal - when you think of the way sailors view the North Star as a way to stay on course, no matter where they are. To achieve this we will need to work together and learn from practice across the organisation and beyond. We have been working with the wider leadership team to set in place the framework to achieve this ambition but of course it will require us all to follow the 4P values and in particular take personal responsibility.
At the heart of this is robust infection prevention and control (IPC) practice and there are many different dimensions to this:
1 – Organising services in the right place to minimise footfall and mitigate risk
Clinical and administrative teams have done some amazing work in embedding the virtual outpatients model at great pace, as described in James's recent message, which has greatly reduced footfall to the hospital sites. However there will always be a requirement for some patients to attend in person. For planned attendances, such as outpatients, imaging and elective surgery, we are able to mitigate the risk of infection transmission in a way we cannot for emergency attendances. For example, for patients coming in for elective surgery, we can test for COVID-19 prior to their operation and for those attending outpatient appointments we can screen and check their temperature before they enter the hospital. To support this we are moving as much planned activity to Ashford Hospital as possible, whilst emergency activity will remain at St Peter's. We will share a film focusing on the important role Ashford is going to play in the new operating model shortly, explaining these changes along with a detailed document on the new social distancing and COVID-19 screening measures in place.
2 – Continuing to follow correct IPC guidelines and protocols
The most fundamental and easiest way to minimise the risk of infection transmission are the basics of handwashing and environmental cleaning. So it's imperative that everyone washes their hands on arrival and as we leave and regularly (for at least 20 seconds with soap and water) using the hand sanitiser gel in between times. Please also support by cleaning your personal work areas regularly – desks, computers, keyboards, phones and cups. If you see something or an area in the hospital that is not up to the required standard please take responsibility and do something about it. For those working in clinical areas there is a wealth of information available on Trustnet on IPC guidelines and the correct use of personal protective equipment (PPE). If you have any concerns or questions the IPC team is there to support you.
3 - Respecting social distancing guidance at all times
I cannot emphasise enough that this applies to everyone! Patients, visitors, colleagues, contractors and delivery drivers. We are still getting reports of colleagues walking along corridors and sitting in rest areas close together and chatting. I appreciate it is often not possible to remain two metres apart whilst caring for patients in clinical areas, but you will be wearing appropriate PPE. Whilst in communal areas and on the grounds of the Trust – such as rest rooms, meeting rooms, lifts, Postgrad, bus stops - please remain two metres apart from others. This is for the safety of everyone. We are about to sign off a new Safe Working Environment policy, to help guide you in organising your working environment in a way that adheres to the principles of social distancing. This will be shared shortly – the most important thing is to remember that this is for all our safety so please do remind one another, in a kind way, and if you feel a situation is not safe say so.
4 – Increased COVID-19 testing for Team ASPH
We continue to offer COVID-19 tests to all members of the team and their household members who develop symptoms. This week we have also begun the roll out of the new Antibody test and anticipate offering this more widely across the Trust in the coming weeks. I would encourage you to take up every opportunity for testing and of course, to fully follow the guidance if your test is positive.
5 – National "Test and Trace" service
You will no doubt have seen in the media that the new national Test and Trace service has launched. The NHS website clearly explains how the process works. The key message is that if you are contacted by the tracing service and told you have been in contact with a person who has coronavirus you must stay at home and self-isolate for 14 days from the day you were last in contact with the person. You must not leave your home, have any visitors to your home and try to avoid contact with anyone you live with as much as possible. Clearly this could present an operational problem if large numbers of the team find themselves in this situation so do please follow all the guidance inside and outside of the organisation to minimise the risk that you become unwell, an asymptomatic carrier of the virus or have to self-isolate as a result of a contact of longer than 15 minutes with less than 2 meters distance between you and a person with the virus.
As you can see there is a lot happening and embedding a new operating model will require our best Team ASPH endeavours. Changing the way we work can be challenging but I think the last few weeks have absolutely proved how adaptable everyone is and just what we are capable of in a very short time frame. This is actually quite an exciting moment in time as we take the opportunity to build on the positive changes we have made through COVID-19 and create a new, fit-for-purpose, modern operating model for the benefit of patients and the team going forward.
There will be lots more information about the North Star ambition and new ways of working coming, but I hope you have found this brief overview helpful.