Bosses at Southampton’s university hospitals have paid tribute to staff for their “phenomenal” response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Some areas and services at University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust are now almost unrecognisable as the organisation has adapted to fundamental changes.
Chief executive Paula Head called the efforts a “shining light” in an “awful period” for families, communities and countries around the world – and paid particular tribute to support staff including cleaners and porters.
The 12,000-strong Trust, which runs Southampton General, the Princess Anne and Southampton Children’s hospitals as well as the New Forest Birth Centre, is currently treating 166 COVID-19 positive inpatients.
Developments in recent weeks include increasing critical care capacity three-fold, a complete overhaul of the emergency department including the construction of a temporary triage marquee and the creation of a new acute medical unit.
Partnerships with the urgent treatment centres at the Royal South Hants and Lymington hospitals have seen adult minor injuries and illnesses diverted and a large proportion of planned (elective) care is continuing with the support of private hospitals the Spire and Nuffield along with the Independent Sector Treatment Centre (ISTC) in Southampton.
The paediatric intensive care unit, which is the lead specialist centre for the South of England, was moved completely in two days to create additional COVID-19 critical care capacity, while complete COVID-19 strategies for the management of women’s and children’s services were developed in days.
Testing laboratories have increased capacity greatly from the start of the pandemic with the lab and pathology teams responsible for processing samples for the South of England, while maternity services established a dedicated support group for pregnant women to keep them updated on changes to guidance and provide reassurance.
The informatics department has also overseen a digital transformation, with more than 90 outpatient services now set-up to run as video clinics and a new triage tool able to ensure patients are treated in the right place and the right time (telephone, video, face-to-face or postpone).
The digital team also set up almost 800 requests for home-working (consultant, clinical and admin) in days and fast-tracked Microsoft Teams for all staff for remote meetings and multi-clinician patient discussions.
They have also installed a results channel which provides nursing staff and infection control teams with live results on inpatients testing positive for COVID-19.
“The phenomenal effort and commitment I have witnessed from everyone who works in the Trust is something that will stay with me forever as it has been that significant,” said Paula.
“I want to thank each and every member of staff as often as I can because I want them to know how much this means to everyone. The work they have done and are continuing to do is a shining light in this truly awful period for families, communities and countries around the world.
“I also want to pay tribute to those staff who don’t always receive the recognition they should - our cleaning staff, caterers, porters, supply chain, healthcare assistants and other support staff - who have been thrust into this situation and who we also rely on. We are constantly thinking of you and grateful for the sacrifices you are making.”
Joe Teape, chief operating officer at UHS, said: “There has been an extraordinary effort by staff across the organisation to prepare for managing COVID-19 and we have seen significant service changes in extremely short periods of time which is remarkable and testament to the amazing colleagues we work with.
“The level of planning throughout the organisation has been exceptional and I truly believe we are as ready as we can be to deal with any challenges which lay ahead thanks to the amazing workforce we have.”
Posted on Monday 13 April 2020