Health leaders across BSW urge local people to stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives

Local people are being urged to do all they can to support crucial health and care services across Bath and North East Somerset (BaNES), Swindon and Wiltshire by following a simple message: stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives.

The request to the public comes at the same time as a number of urgent measures designed to ensure the resilience of services have been put in place in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The changes affect hospitals, GP surgeries, mental health and other health services and have been introduced in line with government guidance.

The new measures are part of a robust plan developed by local health and care organisations working together to ensure services have the necessary resources in place.

Specific measures introduced include:

  • Non-urgent elective surgery has been cancelled at the Royal United Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust in Bath, Great Western Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust in Swindon and Salisbury District Hospital. Urgent and emergency cases and cancer treatments will be carrying on as normal
  • GP surgeries and practices have introduced systems to triage patients over the phone and offer online or telephone consultations rather than face to face appointments. Given the risk of transmission of COVID-19, patients are being asked to avoid face to face appointments unless absolutely necessary
  • New visiting arrangements have been put in place in hospitals across the region
  • Medvivo, the GP Out of Hours provider has introduced a telephone clinical triage model in an attempt to limit face to face consultations wherever possible and is also moving its bases in BaNES and Wiltshire so that important clinical space at the Royal United and Salisbury Hospitals can be used to treat patients with Coronavirus
  • The closure of Swindon’s Walk-in Centre was brought forward to Sunday 22 March. The centre was originally due to close on 31 March.
  • Children’s community services in Wiltshire run by Virgin Care are prioritising services so that face to face contact will only continue where it is safe to  do so, with the  appropriate infection control services in place while other services have become phone based to make it safer for service users and employees.
  • The POD service coordinates the ordering of repeat prescriptions, taking pressure off frontline services such as GP practices, pharmacies, minor injury units and walk in centres. In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, the POD service is experiencing a higher than normal number of calls from members of the public. This means that not all phone calls are answered, which could result in members of the public using our frontline services to order repeat prescriptions. Consequently, an emergency email address – – has been set up which members of the public can use, in addition to the existing phone lines, to order their repeat prescriptions.
  • Staff across the board in our health and care services are working around the clock to offer support and continuity during this busy time

In addition to the changes outlined above, local people are also being urged to help by seeking alternative sources of support including using the NHS 111 online service and by only requesting their usual supply of medications when required.

Tracey Cox, Chief Executive of BaNES, Swindon and Wiltshire Integrated Care Boards (BSW ICBs) said:

“The scale of the challenge facing our local health and care system calls for decisive action. That’s why the NHS and its partners in Bath and North East Somerset, Swindon and Wiltshire are taking urgent steps to ensure that local people are able to receive the help, treatment and advice they need.

We are putting in place a range of measures to ensure that we are in as strong a position as possible to manage the anticipated high level of demand for hospital care over the coming weeks and to also support our most vulnerable people in their own homes.”

Tracey, who is also senior responsible officer for the BSW Sustainability and Transformation Partnerships that represents all local health and care organisations, added:

“Everyone has a part to play in helping us over the coming weeks by following the government’s advice to stay at home. By doing so they will help us slow the spread of coronavirus so we can reduce the number of people needing treatment, protect the NHS and save lives.”

Kevin McNamara, Acting Chief Executive of Great Western Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said:

“We are doing everything we can to prepare for and respond to the challenges posed by the coronavirus outbreak and what the next phase will involve.

“To help us manage the predicted increase in cases, we have retrained staff and are grateful to the many staff who have stepped forward to be able to provide appropriate support in clinical areas, and also those health professionals who have come forward to return to work.

“We are also working with our partners in the local health and care system to ensure we free up as many beds as possible to manage the expected demand that will come in the days and weeks ahead. This work is essential to make available as much bed capacity as we can.”