July 2020


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Members' Update
Firstly, we would like to thank you for your continued support over these very testing times. The past few months have been some of the most challenging for everyone, particularly key workers and those within the NHS and knowing that we have friends like you in the community makes a massive difference to us. At Ashford and St Peter's, we have faced some extremely difficult circumstances, and teams have had to operate in highly pressurised environments, navigating a completely unknown situation that evolved at pace. Throughout this time, the absolute priority for the Trust was to keep patients and staff as safe as possible and to ensure that we cascaded succinct and concise information and guidance to patients and their families, members of the public and staff. The update we share with you now is a very brief overview of the past few months and our plans for how we now move forward to reinstate services that were temporarily on hold.

Adapting the way we work
To ensure that we had capacity to care for patients and the team throughout this time, many changes were implemented at pace, some of which are detailed above.

These changes took a huge team effort to implement; wards and entire departments were transformed to provide additional capacity so that they were better equipped to meet demand, and treat the most seriously ill patients. This was a huge task but the determination and support shown by the team and healthcare partners to facilitate these moves was outstanding. The Trust wishes to extend their thanks to local independent hospitals' BMI Runnymede and Nuffield Health Woking, who gave space within their sites over to Ashford and St Peter's to enable patient care to continue and to prepare for the increase in admissions.

Attend Anywhere - Virtual Appointments
One of the biggest changes we made was switching to virtual patient appointments. Thousands of patients have been able to attend their appointments during lockdown without having to leave home, thanks to the growing use of virtual consultations. In addition to switching to telephone appointments, Ashford and St Peter's were part of the NHS England and NHS Improvement national video consultation pilot which provided access to Attend Anywhere.

Attend Anywhere is an easy-to-use video consultation platform that works over the internet, enabling patients to remain at home or at work for their appointment. At the beginning of March 2020, the Trust was in pilot phase, conducting just a few video consultations per week; by April, there were 38 different clinic areas servicing 25 specialities.

One of the departments which led the trial of video consultations is Musculoskeletal Therapies. Clinical Specialist MSK Physiotherapist, Jamie Parkinson, said: "Attend Anywhere has completely re-defined how we deliver care to our patients. This began as a small pilot to see the effectiveness of video clinics on our patients and staff and has now developed into a region-leading programme putting patient experience at the heart of it. Innovations using Attend Anywhere continue to be developed at Ashford and St Peter's Hospitals such as group exercise sessions and a Respiratory video clinic for COVID-19 patients."

Whilst the Trust has embraced virtual consultations, we continue to run face-to-face consultations where clinically required, and we are reinstating more of these clinics, utilising the Ashford and Woking Hospital sites, in line with government safety guidelines.

Support from local community and partners
The volume of support and kindness shown by the local community over the past few months has been incredible. We have been overwhelmed by the donations from organisations and individuals - so much so that our workforce team had to set up a dedicated area for receiving and distributing all of the items received!

One local group who showed fantastic support are "Nourish our Nurses", founded by Jo-Ann Airikkala, comprising a small team of sixteen volunteers who have undertaken a supreme fundraising effort. Jo-Ann was inspired to establish the group by a childhood friend who is a nurse. Seeing the panic buying and empty supermarket shelves got her thinking about the frontline NHS staff who deserved to be looked after and provided with the ingredients for a healthy, hearty meal.

Together with a group of amazing volunteers they packed and delivered food bags to hospital, ambulance and community healthcare staff.

We have been lucky enough to benefit from this service over the past few months and were delighted to be visited by Her Royal Highness, The Countess of Wessex, who spent the morning volunteering with the group and meeting nurses and midwives at St Peter's on Tuesday 12th May to mark International Nurses Day.

In addition to this we had numerous other donations of local produce, food from local restaurants (before lockdown), homemade scrubs, toiletries and so many letters and pictures of support for the teams, including many colourful designs from local school children. We'd like to extend huge heartfelt thanks to everyone who supported us and our fantastic volunteers who stepped up to help during this time. We will be eternally grateful for this support.

Providing exceptional patient care
Throughout the difficult times, it was uplifting to receive positive feedback and stories about patients who had recovered from COVID-19. We were approached by several patients and family members who wanted to extend their thanks and share their experience of being cared for at St Peter's. One such story was that of Andrew Hodge who spent 10 days in St Peter's where he was treated in ICU and then Aspen ward. Andrew's story received a huge amount of national coverage including a virtual interview on the ITV national evening news.

Looking after Team ASPH
It was important to ensure that we had the right support available for the team and that this support was available in various formats. The workforce team developed a suite of health and wellbeing resources, available for all staff; clinical and non-clinical and for those working on site and remotely. We also provided free meals every evening in the staff canteen. This was available for all members of the team and was scheduled to fit in with the timings of staff finishing a day shift and those beginning a night shift.

COVID Workplace Safety
As we reinstate services and move into a new way of working, we have introduced new workplace safety guidance to ensure that the team stay as safe as possible. The guidance was launched last month by Louise McKenzie, Director of Workforce Transformation, to help managers implement measures to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 between staff in offices and other workplaces across the Trust. The guide sets out principles in relation to; social distancing, organising workspaces, using shared areas, cleaning and good hygiene, travelling to work and moving around buildings and working at home.

We are still encouraging teams to work remotely where possible, to reduce the volume of people on site. For those that do come in, we are strictly adhering to national guidance which states that all staff, visitors and patients must have their temperature checked and be given a face mask to wear upon arrival at the Trust.

Restoring services
The Trust is now actively working on restoring and reinstating services that were temporarily put on hold, working towards a new objective to "end health and care acquired infections for the team, patients and the community we serve". It is against this objective that we have been working to restart our outpatient, diagnostic and elective surgical services, in ways that protect patients and staff from COVID-19 and other infections.

With this in mind we have made significant changes at our sites in line with government regulations. We have created this short animation and information sheet to provide guidance for those who may be attending Ashford or St Peter's over the coming weeks and months.

Annual Members' Meeting and Members' Events
We are sorry that we have had to postpone our members' events and the Annual Members' Meeting as we know from the high turnout and your positive feedback just how much you enjoy these events.

We are in the process of finalising the arrangements for our Annual Members' Meeting which we hope will take place in September. Once a date has been finalised and arrangements are in place we will let you know how to join and take part in the meeting.