There is no doubt that we face enormous challenges across the NHS in the coming weeks, but there is some hope on the horizon with the roll-out of the COVID-19 vaccines.
The Royal Free London (RFL) is extremely busy and we have taken some difficult decisions in recent weeks.
We have temporarily paused non-urgent procedures, operations and out-patient services. Edgware Birth Centre has also temporarily closed. This is to ensure we can provide the safest care possible while also responding to the increasing need for us to treat those needing urgent, emergency or COVID-19 care.
This week, we opened vaccination centres at Barnet Hospital and Chase Farm Hospital for frontline members of staff and colleagues from partner organisations.
We welcomed the Prime Minster earlier this week to Chase Farm Hospital - one of the first centres in the country to start delivering the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine. He was given a tour of the centre and met with some of the first members of RFL staff receiving the vaccine, as well as vaccinators responsible for delivering it.
The visit was also an opportunity to speak with the Prime Minister about the pressures we are facing as we continue to respond to the pandemic. You can read about the visit on our website.
I am sure you will join me in saying a huge ‘thank you’ to all of our incredible staff, many of whom have deferred their annual leave over the festive season, or taken on new roles, to help with the ongoing challenges we are facing. Their relentless support and hard work is awe inspiring.
Group chief executive
Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust
Temporary changes to planned care
In response to the on-going COVID-19 pandemic and the increasing need for us to care for patients requiring urgent, emergency or COVID-19 care, the RFL has temporarily paused all non-urgent planned procedures/operations and non-urgent out-patient services.
This has helped free up vital staff to help care for patients with the most urgent clinical need. Patients affected by this decision are being contacted. If patients do not hear from us, we are asking them to attend their appointment as planned.
Endoscopy and breast screening appointments continue as normal. Patients with diagnostic imaging appointments should attend as normal, unless they are advised their appointment has changed. This includes appointments for ultrasounds, MRIs, CT scans, x-rays and nuclear medicine.
Further information, including frequently asked questions, can be found on our website.
Home birth services
Home birth services have been temporarily suspended.
We are contacting women who were planning to have a home birth in the coming weeks to explain the changes and discuss alternative options with them.
We will continue to monitor the situation closely to ensure home birth services are restored as soon as it is safe to do so.
Please encourage members of the public to call NHS 111 first if they think they need to attend our emergency departments for an urgent, but not serious or life-threatening, medical need.
Public Health England has released campaign resources to help promote the use of NHS 111. They can be found in Public Health England’s resource centre.
NHS 111 aims to make it easier and safer for patients to get the right treatment at the right time. It means that if patients need to be seen at an emergency department, an appointment can be booked via NHS 111.
By contacting NHS 111 first – whether online or by phone – for an urgent, but not serious or life-threatening medical need, people will:
speak with a healthcare professional earlier, and get the right treatment first time
be able to arrange an urgent face-to-face appointment, if needed
avoid waiting for a long time in emergency waiting rooms
NHS 111 can also make direct appointments at GP surgeries and urgent treatment centres. They can also despatch an ambulance if the patient’s condition is serious or life-threatening.
Arrangements have not changed for people with serious or life-threatening illnesses or injuries, who should continue to dial 999 without delay.
Staff at RFL help scientists to better understand COVID-19 immunity
Staff at the RFL were among the healthcare professionals taking part in a study to help scientists to better understand COVID-19 immunity.
The study analysed antibody and T cell responses in 136 London healthcare workers, 76 of whom had mild or asymptomatic infection dating back to the start of lockdown in March 2020.
You can read more about the research and findings here.
Latest information for the public
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.
Royal Free Hospital lift upgrade begins next week
An upgrade and refurbishment of the lifts at the Royal Free Hospital will start on Saturday 16 January to improve the experience of travelling around the hospital for patients, visitors and staff.
Two of the six main lifts will be out of action while they are replaced with newer, more efficient controls and operating equipment. This is part of a three-phase project to replace each of the six lifts at the Royal Free Hospital. Replacing the first two lifts will take approximately 21 weeks to complete.
To keep disruption to a minimum, staff will be briefed on where to direct patients from the entrance to help people move around the hospital efficiently, and additional signage will be in place.
You can find guidance on using the lifts and getting around inside the Royal Free Hospital on our website.
Keeping our patients informed
On Tuesday 26 January, Healthwatch Camden will be hosting an online Q&A event with Kate Slemeck, chief executive of the Royal Free Hospital, and Marcel Levi, chief executive of the University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.
Healthwatch Camden has been inviting patients and the public to register and submit questions which will be answered during the event. The deadline to submit questions is Monday 11 January.
Full details of the event can be found on Healthwatch Camden’s website.
Dr Alan McGlennan appointed interim chief executive
Dr Alan McGlennan has become interim chief executive of Chase Farm Hospital, following the departure of Natalie Forrest.
Dr McGlennan continues in his roles as medical director for Chase Farm Hospital and as interim chief clinical information officer for the RFL.
Amanda Sparkes, divisional director of operations and nursing, is acting as the nursing lead for Chase Farm Hospital.
Donation delivers for hospital staff
The food delivery company Deliveroo has donated £100,000 to the Royal Free Charity to help support the wellbeing of RFL staff.
The money was donated by Deliveroo customers following a campaign by the company called Supporting the NHS. Overall, the company has donated £500,000 to five NHS trusts.
The same campaign saw Deliveroo deliver more than 5,000 meals for hospital staff during the first wave of the pandemic.