Don’t Defer, Don’t Delay

That is the urgent message from St Hugh’s Hospital, Grimsby, who say people may be tempted to postpone or cancel routine surgery during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Doing so, said hospital director Ashley Brown, could have serious consequences on your future health.

St Hugh’s is working in partnership with NHS England in a first-of-a-kind deal to ensure patients receive the treatment they need during this challenging time.

The hospital in Peaks Lane is designated as a Super Green Site, meaning people who do not have coronavirus can safely undergo surgical procedures.

For some time, it has been following strict measures – such as staff and patient screening, and separate entrances for different departments – to protect everyone using it.

But some people are choosing to defer or delay planned treatment until the pandemic eases or until after they have been vaccinated, putting themselves at risk.

“The message could not be clearer,” said Mr Brown. “Surgery on cataracts, for example, can only maintain the current level of eye health at that time. If a patients vision is relatively good now but if the procedure is delayed, and during that time vision worsens, the operation cannot restore eyesight to what it was before.

“We all know these are strange times, and that coming into hospital can cause anxiety and fear regardless of a pandemic but delaying or deferring could result in someone’s medical condition worsening irreversibly.

“It’s quite right that, in clinical terms, some non-urgent appointments and surgeries have been delayed, but we are now many months into the pandemic, and in a much safer position. We have learned a lot about how coronavirus spreads.

“Sometimes it’s hard to know what to do for the best. We are all taking extra steps to stay safe, like only going out when necessary and keeping our distance from loved ones. But you mustn’t put off important health care.

“Would I want my family member to go ahead? Yes, I would – and I would go ahead myself, too.

“The vaccination programme is well underway now, but do not wait until you’ve had yours if you are due a routine appointment or procedure and haven’t been told not to go. It’s a risk, and a risk that could end up being a regret.

“Safety first doesn’t mean your health comes second.”

The hospital’s Super Green Site status is only awarded when the most stringent cross-infection measures are being carried out, allowing people who don’t have coronavirus to safely undertake treatment.

“Zones have been created within the hospital, with separate entrances for different departments to avoid cross-contamination,” Mr Brown explained. “All staff and patients are tested for Covid-19, and everyone is required to wear a facemask. We are also ensuring staff are protected and using the correct equipment.

“When we can stay at home, we are. When we can’t, each and every one of us – no matter what our role – are wearing scrubs that we change into when we get to work.

“The highest of measures are in place, because our priority is for those who need care to get it.”

To provide even further certainty, visitors are not allowed unless in exceptional circumstances.

“We understand that sometimes people need assistance,” said Mr Brown. “For people who don’t need that extra support, we are keeping them in touch with family and friends by helping them make phone or video calls.

“We’ve also slowed down the turnaround times between procedures to allow for increased infection control.”

St Hugh’s continues its long partnership with the NHS to ease pressure in local hospital Trusts by carrying out planned procedures in its own state-of-the-art facility. Not only is the arrangement helping the NHS by freeing up staff and beds for coronavirus patients, but it is also keeping otherwise healthy people – who may only need a simple procedure – away from possible infection.

During the summer 2020 lockdown, Healthwatch Lincolnshire reported that more than 60 per cent of people living in the county had concerns about the safety of accessing hospital care during the pandemic.

About 80 per cent of the patients at St Hugh’s are referred by the NHS. While some types of surgery is not undertaken there, patients have the right to choose St Hugh’s as their preferred place of treatment.

“This isn’t about getting on with it and having a ‘stiff upper lip’ type of attitude towards our health,” added Mr Brown.

“We all deserve medical attention, no matter what’s going on around us. Here at St Hugh’s, we are prepared and resilient – and we are open, no matter how long the pandemic lasts, to make sure you get the care you need.”

St Hugh’s has provided three ventilators to Grimsby’s Diana, Princess of Wales Hospital to increase the amount of intensive care beds available for coronavirus patients.

The not-for-profit hospital has also continued support homeless people using Harbour Place, Grimsby, through the pandemic by preparing meals in its kitchen and delivering them to the charity every Monday.