The first few months of this year have been extremely challenging for everyone across the NHS. However, at the Royal Free London (RFL), in recent weeks, we have seen a continued decline in the number of patients being admitted with COVID-19 to our hospitals.
This has provided us with an opportunity to reflect on our response to the second COVID-19 surge with our teams across the RFL. We are taking some time to think about how we might do things differently across the trust and continue to provide the very best care to our patients.
Over 500 members of our staff were redeployed to new roles to support our response to the pandemic and they are now starting to move back. I would like to take this opportunity to say ‘thank you’ to all our staff for their hard work and dedication. We are also hugely grateful to all the staff that came from other NHS organisations to support our teams.
In December, we temporarily paused some non-urgent planned procedures/operations and out-patient services. We are currently focusing on how we can restart these as quickly and safely as possible. We continue to work closely with our partners across north central London (NCL) to do this and are prioritising patients with the most urgent clinical need.
We also want to reassure our patients and local communities that we are here for them should they need us and encourage them to access the care that they need. Please share this important message through your channels.
Thank you for your support.
Group chief executive
Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust
Reopening our children and young people's services
The emergency department and general in-patient wards for children and young people at the Royal Free Hospital have reopened.
These services were temporarily diverted to the Whittington Hospital in September 2020 following a decision by the NHS in NCL to transfer services as part of the sector’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The emergency department is open 24 hours, seven days each week. Anyone aged under 18 needing care for an accident or emergency can visit us.
The adult and children’s blood taking services at Barnet Hospital, Chase Farm Hospital, Edgware Community Hospital and the Royal Free Hospital have reopened for all blood tests.
An appointment must be booked in advance at each site for all tests; patients will not be able to walk-in.
Appointment booking details can be found on our website.
The nurse who followed her heart back to the Royal Free Hospital
Jennifer Soloman, a 53-year-old nurse who grew up in Hertfordshire, has been back working in the Royal Free Hospital’s intensive care unit (ICU) for two months, after making the momentous decision to leave her family in Grenada.
Jennifer qualified at the Royal Free Hospital in 1990 and worked in the hospital’s ICU before leaving the UK to go travelling, eventually settling in Grenada in the Caribbean.
Jennifer made the decision to return and offer her support during the COVID-19 pandemic which was placing enormous staffing pressure on the NHS, especially ICUs.
We have a dedicated COVID-19 section on our website. The latest information for patients and visitors, and our patient resources library, can be found here. This page is continually being updated to reflect the changing situation.
Referral to treatment update
At the RFL we want to ensure that the data we use to report our performance on key standards is of the highest quality.
In 2019, the trust took the decision to pause reporting our referral to treatment (RTT) figures because we could not be sure that our data for this standard was accurate.
RTT is the period of time from when a patient is referred to the trust to when they begin treatment. The standard trusts are required to meet is that 92% of patients should start their treatment within 18 weeks of being referred.
A plan was put in place to resolve the issue with our data and we continued to keep local clinical commissioning groups and NHS England informed of our progress.
Following the completion of this work, we are now confident that the data we have is accurate and the board has taken the decision to resume reporting our RTT figures.
You will be aware that during the past year, some of our services have been put on hold so we could provide care to the large number of critically ill COVID-19 patients admitted to our hospitals. As such, some of our patients are waiting longer to be seen than we would like.
As a trust, we are now working hard to restart those services as quickly as we can. We also have a series of measures in place to ensure we can see patients as soon as possible, including:
Working closely with our partner trusts across north central London in order to use any spare capacity and improve efficiency.
Using our full surgical capacity at Chase Farm Hospital, which is designated an adult orthopaedic surgical hub. Since there is no emergency surgery here, elective work can continue at pace.
Edgware Community Hospital has also been designated as a cataract surgical hub which allows us to fast-track patients who need this procedure.
Offering appointments and procedures at weekends.
Patients will be treated in order of clinical need and patients referred to us for urgent treatment will still be seen in a timely manner.
RTT figures for the RFL will be published by NHS England, alongside other NHS trusts, from May.
Upgrading our telephone system to improve your experience
We will shortly be upgrading our telephone system which will improve patient experience.
Over the next few weeks, preparation work is taking place to ensure the transition to the new system goes smoothly with minimal disruption. Planned downtime to our switchboard is taking place out of hours to keep disruption to a minimum.
The Royal Free Charity's next RFC Presents event will take place on Monday 26 April, 6-7pm.
Professor Margaret Johnson, consultant physician in HIV medicine at the RFL and professor of medicine at University College London will discuss 'HIV then and now'. Professor Johnson was also a consultant on the critically-acclaimed Channel 4 series It’s a Sin.
Watch live on the RFC Presents YouTube Channel here.
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