Work to renew non-COVID services in the region is being balanced with requirements to help protect people from the virus. That was a message delivered to Dumfries and Galloway NHS Board on Monday, as Chief Executive Jeff Ace offered an update on the response to the coronavirus.
Mr Ace said that COVID activity remains consistently low in the region’s hospitals, but that a great deal of activity is taking place around testing for the virus – in line with national policy. He pointed to the challenges of resuming elective work at a high level of productivity whilst having to introduce steps to the patient journey involving testing and segregation to address the continuing risk of transmission.
He noted that Emergency Departments had been under stress before the coronavirus outbreak, and to function amid the threat of COVID this might require a more scheduled approach, employing new forms of triaging.
Mr Ace noted new requirements around testing for care home staff and highlighted that the high volume of testing had implications on resources.
In her update to the Board, NHS Dumfries and Galloway Chief Operating Officer Julie White noted an increase in the number of non-COVID patients in an acute setting.
Mrs White acknowledged the challenge of meeting demand in some aspects of service, such as bed capacity, while also retaining the necessary arrangements to respond to an increase in cases of COVID-19. She noted the demands on staff during this period, and pointed to the support which had been provided – with Board members seeking assurances that staff were being supported to work in safe environments.
Director of Finance Katy Lewis presented an update on the current financial status. She said that detailed review of the financial plan was being prepared as part of the quarter one financial position – setting out how it ties in with the resource likely to be made available from the Treasury.
Nurse Director Alice Wilson then reported on patient feedback, noting that a decrease in complaints in April accompanied a reduced level of activity due to COVID. It was reported that Care Assurance work had resumed.
Monday’s meeting closed with an update on other activity, noting a significant increase in the use of the web-based NHS Near Me service which provides secure face-to-face appointments. A reduction in referrals into psychology was noted, and that only 1-1 sessions rather than group work could be provided at present. Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services had been working almost fully during the epidemic, and have cleared its waiting list. There was feedback that NHS Near Me has proved very popular with the majority of people who use services, parents and families.
The NHS Board meetings now move from fortnightly to monthly, starting with the next meeting which takes place in July.