Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust today confirmed that its Board had taken a formal decision to work towards a September 2020 date for the reopening of the Emergency Department (ED) at Chorley and South Ribble Hospital.
This timetable is subject to a number of building changes to comply with current Public Health England guidance and additional staffing to ensure care can be safely provided during the Covid-19 pandemic. The Trust is seeking to secure the funding to put these measures in place.
The ED at Chorley has been closed since March 2020 as part of the Trust’s response to the Coronavirus pandemic. Staff from the ED at Chorley transferred to Royal Preston Hospital to provide focused care for seriously ill patients with Covid-19. The Trust has been clear that it was committed to reopening the Chorley ED as soon as it was safe to do so. The criteria and potential timetable have been discussed in detail with clinical teams and with NHS England (NHSE) and these conversations have informed the Board decision.
Current guidance from Public Health England requires all hospitals to separate Covid and non-Covid patients so modifications will now need to take place within the original ED at Chorley to ensure that it is Covid secure. Separating patients in this way also requires the need for additional staff so that they can care for either Covid or non-Covid patients in order to help minimise the risk of infection.
In order to allow sufficient time to complete these tasks, the Board has agreed that the Trust will work towards reopening the unit in September 2020 with the intention of returning to the pre-Covid opening hours of 8am - 8pm.
The Trust is liaising with NHSE to secure the funding needed for both the building works and additional staffing needed to safely reopen the ED.
It is important to note that a second wave or serious local outbreak of Coronavirus could affect the timetable for the reopening, or cause the unit to potentially close again in the future but the situation will be closely monitored and any changes clearly communicated.
Over the coming months, the Trust will also be seeking to reintroduce as much elective surgery as possible. The need to separate Covid and non-Covid patients within the ED at Royal Preston has meant that the facility has had to expand to keep patients safe and distanced. The Trust has therefore lost some of the space previously used for elective operations and has asked for capital funding to replace this capacity with theatres and recovery space elsewhere. This may include utilising clinical areas at both sites more flexibly and the Trust will be able to update on this once we know if our request for funding has been successful.
Karen Partington, Chief Executive at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said:
“We promised local people that we would reopen the Emergency Department at Chorley and South Ribble Hospital as soon as it is safe to do so and we will deliver on that promise.
“We are working towards a September date for this, however it is really important that everybody recognises that if Covid-19 cases begin to rise significantly, or other safety concerns are identified, we will need to revisit the situation.
“We’d like to thank our staff and the local community for their support and understanding about the need for us to continue to adapt our services and work flexibly to provide the best possible patient care during this pandemic.”