A thank you message from the Chair and Chief Executive of Swansea Bay UHB

A picture of Emma Woollett and Tracy Myhill

Hello everyone,

We’d like to begin by thanking you all from the bottom of our hearts for everything you are doing to protect our NHS services.

None of us have experienced what we are all going through now, and it is an extremely challenging time for everyone. We understand how hard it’s been to be physically apart from family and friends; how difficult to resist the lure of beauty spots on a sunny day, and how we all miss our ability to travel around freely with whomever we want by our side.

Social distancing is not easy, but it is working. It is making a real difference in the fight against this new virus, and it is saving lives and protecting our NHS.

As some elements of the lockdown are eased, please keep following the rules as you have been doing so well. 

A big thank you, too, to everyone who has been fundraising for us, made donations of food or equipment, or bought toiletries and clothing from our Amazon wish list. We are truly grateful for your generous support.

We don’t know when this current situation will end, and no-one can predict with certainty what is coming in the months ahead before a vaccine is found. For this reason, while hoping for the best, it has been necessary to plan for the worst. We may never need all the safeguards we’ve put in place – in fact we really hope that’s the case. But these extra measures are now available, so if we need them, we’re ready.

Since March, when we first postponed non-urgent outpatient appointments and operations to free up beds for COVID-19 patients, we have been extremely busy remodelling our main hospitals to meet this demand.

We’ve also made major changes in primary and community care; and of course our two new field hospitals, Bay Field Hospital in Fabian Way, and Llandarcy Field Hospital were developed at lightning speed, and are standing by to offer hundreds of additional beds, if needed; as the pandemic is not over yet. They will be used for less seriously ill patients, and patients who are almost ready to go home but need a little more care before they are ready. Our thanks to Swansea and Neath Port Talbot Councils, who oversaw and managed the building work.

But we are also very aware that those of you waiting for treatment for general, non-coronavirus conditions are now facing uncertainty and worry about when you will receive it.

We are now carefully resuming a limited amount of planned care, for patients whose conditions are not COVID-19 related. This is small scale, with the most urgent cases prioritised, and we will not be in a position to offer this to everyone. But we will do whatever we can, and we promise to keep this under constant review. 

If you are invited to come in for your planned procedure there will be a number of precautions that you, and your family, must take in order to support us in reducing risks.  Your clinician will talk to you about these measures, and what we will also do to keep you safe. Although unfortunately, even working together, we will not be able to eliminate all risks.

Meanwhile, it is really important to remember that our emergency care is continuing as normal. If you become suddenly seriously unwell, or have an injury, our services are there for you. Please don’t ignore chest pains or other serious symptoms – we need to see you.

Be assured, too, that we have rearranged our emergency department at Morriston Hospital so that suspected COVID-19 patients are seen separately, and our other hospitals also have arrangements in place to manage any known COVID-19 patients and minimise infection risks as much as possible.

GP surgeries are also open, with appropriate safeguards in place.  You will need to contact them first by phone or email.  So please contact your GP surgery if you are worried about the onset of any new symptoms or a change in symptoms if you have a pre-existing medical condition.  

The Minor Injury Unit at Neath Port Talbot Hospital is also open seven days a week between 7.30am and 11pm and can treat a wide range of minor injuries from fractures to cuts and burns, for adults and children over 12 months.

We also accelerated plans for a new Children’s Emergency Unit at Morriston Hospital which we are delighted to say is now open.

As well as the brief summary above, you may be interested to find out a little more detail of what we’ve been doing to prepare for this pandemic across our sites, including:

In Morriston Hospital, the Surgical Decision Making Unit and Surgical Short Stay Unit have moved to what was the fracture clinic. A Respiratory Assessment Unit has now been established in the former Surgical Decision Making Unit area, with a separate entrance for patients brought in by ambulance.

The hospital has greatly expanded its critical care capacity, including some sections of outpatients. Morriston has a number of dedicated COVID-19 wards, and an ambulance decontamination bay has also been built.

Singleton Hospital also has dedicated wards for COVID-19; a COVID-19 team within obstetrics to care for new mums who might have the infection, and an ambulance decontamination bay.

In Neath Port Talbot Hospital the rheumatology department has been transformed into an area for COVID-19 patients.

In Mental Health and Learning Disabilities services, isolation beds have been identified in Cefn Coed and Neath Port Talbot hospitals, Caswell Clinic, Taith Newydd and Dan Y Deri.

Many staff throughout the health board have been redeployed or retrained to build a robust team to support COVID-19 care, and new staff or returning staff are undergoing fast-track training arranged at the Liberty Stadium in Swansea.

Our staff have been imaginative in their approach to care when they can’t always see patients in person. For example paediatric physiotherapists are now using dolls to demonstrate positioning and exercises to parents via the internet, and also to support staff working in special schools.

Whilst some conditions and presentations would still benefit from face to face assessment - like assessment of tone - we’ve discovered that many conditions can be managed virtually in the longer term; e.g. chronic pain, rheumatology and end of intervention reviews. Families also tell us they like having support this way as they can use their own cushions, towels at home, etc rather than specialised physio equipment.

Maternity services are also doing everything possible to support new mothers and families affected by visiting restrictions, and since lockdown began over 150 babies have been born.

Our community and primary care teams have also been busy. Multidisciplinary community assessment hubs provide healthcare services to patients with COVID-19 in the community. The hubs assess, review and manage patients who are self-isolated and require medical attention, but don’t necessarily need to go into hospital. Primary and Community staff are working with Swansea and Neath Port Talbot councils so more patients can be supported to leave hospital, and additional beds have also been made available at Gorseinon Community Hospital

All of the region’s 49 GP practices remain open, providing care by telephone and booking appointments (no walk-ins) where necessary and safe. Some GPs are now using digital apps like askmyGP and Attend Anywhere to offer virtual consultations to patients in their own homes. Consultant Connect was also launched in record time and gives GPs instant access to consultant advice 24/7. So far it’s helped keep more than half of the patients involved out of hospital. Initially focusing on COVID-19, urgent general medical and renal medicine inquiries, diabetes and palliative care, it has now expanded to include community geriatric care, endocrinology, gastroenterology, and acute medical admissions.

Dentists are also open, although with a reduced service. However an urgent dental care unit was set up for patients with Coronavirus, or those who need urgent dental care where treatment causes spray (like drilling), so staff here need full PPE to see patients.

Our community mental health teams continue to be operational, reviewing new referrals, keeping in touch with existing patients, and providing crisis and home treatment services when necessary.  A lot of activity is undertaken ‘virtually’ by phone or online.

Our smoking cessation service has also launched a virtual service to help people stop smoking during lockdown.

We have drive-through COVID-19 testing centres (by appointment only) in Margam and the Liberty Stadium, and are working closely with our local authority colleagues for the next significant phase of the COVID-19 response – Test, Trace, and Protect.  With the virus still here, we all need to find ways of living alongside it in our communities.  We need to take steps to protect ourselves, our families and our communities to limit the spread of the disease. 

The Test, Trace, and Protect work involves anyone in our communities showing relevant symptoms being tested for COVID-19, their close contacts traced, and contacts being advised to self-isolate to stop further spread of the virus.  The system started running from the beginning of June. 

This is just a brief summary of some of the work which has been underway to protect our Swansea and Neath Port Talbot communities during these unprecedented times. To find out more about our other services during this time, please visit our website: https://sbuhb.nhs.wales/

So thank you once more for all you are doing to support your NHS. We really appreciate it.

Keep safe everyone,

 

Emma Woollett, Chair

Tracy Myhill, Chief Executive

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