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Non-emergency procedures re-start as Tunbridge Wells Hospital and Maidstone Hospital get back to normal

Hospitals in Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells will be running full services from this week, after a dramatic drop in the number of coronavirus patients needing treatment.

The sites will be fully open from today and planned operations which had to be suspended in March will be restarted.

Visiting restrictions at Maidstone Hospital are being eased
Visiting restrictions at Maidstone Hospital are being eased

Visiting restrictions, brought in at the end of March, are also being eased.

Two weeks ago, just eight patients with Covid-19 were being cared for across the two hospitals, compared with 87 at the peak of the crisis.

While urgent and essential treatments, such as cancer and stroke care, continued during the pandemic, in March a temporary suspension of non urgent and routine procedures took hold.

A trust spokesman confirmed this work would now re-start.

A second theatre will reopen from mid-July to carry out cataract operations, urology services will be running at 50% capacity by Monday, July 20 and back up to normal levels by early August and orthopaedic treatments will be back to 80% of capacity by Wednesday, July 15.

'This will bring comfort and reassurance to many concerned about delays...'

CT and MRI appointments are being extended across weekends, to help reduce demand and space out appointments.

From Monday one visitor, or two if from the same household, will be allowed per patient. Everyone making a trip must wear face coverings.

Each ward will be allocated a specific visiting hour to avoid too many people arriving at the hospital at one time.

The changes only apply to people visiting non-Covid wards.

Back on March 26, the Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust (MTW), announced that no visitors would be allowed in either hospital, with the exception of certain scenarios.

Non-emergency procedures are set to restart at Tunbridge Wells Hospital Picture: Matthew Walker
Non-emergency procedures are set to restart at Tunbridge Wells Hospital Picture: Matthew Walker

These included one person being allowed for an hour to see patients receiving end of life care and those who were about to go on ventilation.

One birthing partner was allowed on maternity departments, but, until the relaxation, no-one was allowed to accompany a woman on on an antenatal ward, or at any scans or antenatal appointment.

A trust spokesperson said: “Keeping our patients and staff safe and preventing the spread of coronavirus is our absolute priority. Social distancing and additional infection control measures have been introduced in outpatient areas.

"This includes continuing with video and telephone clinics for the majority of outpatient appointments and only inviting new patients or those deemed clinically necessary to see face-to-face into our outpatient clinics so that we can minimise footfall to our hospitals and maintain safe distancing.”

'Keeping our patients and staff safe is our absolute priority...'

As non-emergency departments at Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells hospitals are re-started, NHS figures show how coronavirus has impacted non-emergency patients.

GPs referred 9,939 patients to hospital for assessment, investigation or treatment by specialists at MTW in March last year.

But that fell to 6,530 during the same month this year, as Covid19 began to take hold in the UK,a drop of 34%.

It reflected the picture across England, where referrals fell by 32%. Figures also show that between 2018 and 2019, there were 9,155 planned admissions and 56,540 emergency admissions.

Maidstone and the Weald MP Helen Grant said: “The trust’s reopening of many more of their ‘normal’ health services from next week is very good news. This will bring comfort and reassurance to many people concerned about delays to consultations or procedures.

“The trust are right to take this action, in a cautious way, putting patient and staff safety first at all times.”

The Kent and Medway Clinical Commissioning Group, said issues like social distancing measures and PPE supply would see a ‘new normal’ but that the NHS was open for business.

Read more: All the latest news from Maidstone

Read more: All the latest news from Tunbridge Wells

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