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New-look Conquest, where critical care capacity has been increased.

Healthcare trust gears up to meet corona virus challenge

The number of critical care beds has been doubled as East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust implements a series of measures to enable it to cope with the coronavirus outbreak. The number of Covid-19 deaths in East Sussex stands  at 10. Nick Terdre reports.

The East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust says it has doubled its normal critical care capacity and ultimately aims to increase it by five times. A spokesman said work was ongoing but he could not put a date on when this would be achieved.

Two hospitals, the Conquest in Hastings and Eastbourne District General, share the region’s critical care capacity. The doubling takes the number of critical care beds to close to 40, the spokesman said.

The two hospitals are currently treating some 30 confirmed Covid-19 cases, not all of them in critical care, as well as a number of suspected cases. Up to 5 April, the number of confirmed cases in East Sussex was 155 and there have been 14  deaths, according to Public Health England figures.

The hospitals are equipped with sufficient ventilators and sets of PPE – personal protective equipment – for current needs, with supplies being provided from national stocks, the spokesman said.

Worrying time

“It is a worrying time for patients, our local communities and members of staff,” said the trust chief executive Adrian Bull. “Life has changed radically for all of us but I want to reassure local people that our plans mean that we are ready to provide health care for the people of East Sussex.

“Across the organisation we have made a significant number of changes as we gear ourselves up to manage the Covid-19 pandemic…

“It is important for everyone to help us and play their part in reducing the spread of this virus. Please follow the government’s advice to regularly wash your hands and stay at home. Only go out if essential, and when you are out, maintain social distancing.”

Among the changes made by the trust, all non urgent operations and procedures have been cancelled to free up clinical areas and clinicians to help treat Covid-19 patients. Urgent and emergency procedures will continue to be undertaken, with some taking place in facilities away from the main hospitals.

The homebirth service and Eastbourne Midwifery Unit service have been temporarily suspended – all deliveries will take place in the Obstetric Unit at the Conquest.

Cancer treatment rearranged

To minimise risks to cancer patients, chemotherapy and infusion care have been temporarily moved to East Sussex College in Eastbourne. Cancer treatment continues, with close attention being paid to referral and treatment volumes to make sure that cancer cases continue to be identified, diagnosed and treated in a timely manner, the trust says.

The discharge of patients as soon as it is clinically safe is being speeded up through newly created seven-day discharge hubs.

Some outpatient appointments are being moved onto the telephone and the hospitals hope to soon be able to offer video appointments.

Strict restrictions have been put on visiting – only essential visitors are being allowed. These include one visitor for patients in a critical condition who may be near the end of their life. Full details are given on the ESHT website.


This article was amended by Nick Terdre on 6 April 2020.

Posted 11:47 Sunday, Apr 5, 2020 In: Covid-19

1 Comment

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  1. Bea Rogers

    Sadly, many of the patients in hospital wards were effectively evicted to make way for Covid patients. There were very confused messages from staff, ranging from “We won’t discharge you without a proper care plan” to two of them standing by the bed and demanding “We need you to go home NOW”. There was no proper explanation as to who was deciding all this. Promised care packages have not materialised as the staff who should have delivered this were redeployed for the virus. Even the community nurses have stopped visiting many of the patients as their referrals become utterly unmanageable. Patients with serious health conditions are feeling abandoned, and getting worse.
    There should be lessons learned from this: if hospital managements are emptying wards there should be a specialised team to communicate with the patients and their supporters, explaining exactly what they are doing and why and giving CONSISTENT messages about what support will be offered, then following up to make sure that it is. Community health facilities should not be raided in the panic over the virus, however serious that is.
    A lot of the ward staff were in a bit of a panic as well, not helped by the lack of PPE equipment for them. Nobody knew really what was going on. This should be acknowledged in the planning for the next health emergency, whatever it might be.

    Comment by Bea Rogers — Friday, Apr 10, 2020 @ 11:19

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