A campaign has been launched to wipe out the transmission of COVID-19 in Southampton’s hospitals – and the community is being called on to play a vital part.
University Hospital Southampton is now planning to bring back services and healthcare support and is leading from the frontline in ensuring that patients who need treatment can access it safely.
The campaign, called COVID ZERO, is the first of its kind to be launched by a hospital trust in England.
It has one clear message both for the Southampton community as well as the Trust’s 11,500 staff; Walk, Wear, Wash.
Residents across the city are being urged to mirror protective measures in place across hospital sites, in their own communities – follow government guidance when walking apart, wear a mask where you can’t, and continue to wash your hands as often as possible.
The aim of COVID ZERO is to enable the Trust to return services as quickly as possible while keeping staff and patients safe from the threat of COVID-19 by ensuring there is no transmission of the disease.
Effective onward infection prevention will mean staff who have been redeployed during the pandemic will be able to return to their regular roles, helping services to resume at full strength.
Hospital leaders today urged the community to play its part and act now – warning that the stark alternative is the very real possibility of a second wave that could overwhelm the city’s NHS services.
At the peak of the pandemic, UHS had 180 in-patients admitted with COVID-19 – with around 40 of those requiring intensive care.
Derek Sandeman, chief medical officer at UHS, warned that while rates of infection have dropped because of the effect of the lockdown, it would not take much to rise again. He urged the public to collectively work to reduce the reproduction (R) number to prevent the onward spread of the virus as the country eases out of lockdown measures.
He said: “It is clear that people are beginning to feel that we have won the war against COVID-19, but this is not the case.
“Nothing has changed, the pandemic is still here – the virus is still in our community and it remains infectious and dangerous. The numbers remain higher now than when it began.
“It kills the young, the old, the healthy, the fit, those with ill-health and those in their prime. It takes decades of life from those who die, it can easily and rapidly return, threatening to overwhelm us.”
Mr Sandeman added: “We have achieved a lot and I am thankful to the community and our hospital staff for their goodwill and personal sacrifices which have got us this far. But a huge risk remains and it is vital we all do more.”
In urging the community to support the campaign, Mr Sandeman described it as our ‘Dunkirk moment’ when the country came to the rescue of its troops. He added: “It was through the actions of the people, individuals acting in the interest of others, that so many lives were saved.”
Urging people to back the campaign, he added: “Walk, Wear, Wash is a simple but vital message for everyone if we are to protect our hospital and make it a safe place for patients to come and staff to deliver the medical help they need.”
Gail Byrne, chief nursing officer UHS, described how the past three months have had a significant impact on staff as she urged the public to maintain social distancing measures to keep themselves and their hospitals safe.
She said: “Our nurses have worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic so far, in what has been a stressful and emotionally draining time.
“There is a reason that they were depicted as heroes; it was in how they looked after patients with absolute care and compassion; it was in how they put the patients above themselves and it was in how they worked together as a team.
“But it has been exhausting and they are tired.
“COVID-19 has not gone away and now more than ever we all must do everything in our power to prevent a second wave and keep our hospital a safe environment, both for the staff and the patients who so urgently need care.”
Posted on Wednesday 1 July 2020