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James A Thomas

James A Thomas
Chief Operating Officer


I wanted to use this week's message to provide you with an update on the evolving COVID-19 situation and provide information about the measures we are taking. As we are now treating patients with confirmed COVID-19 in the Trust we are increasing our response.

I know you will feel concerned for yourself and your families and that is something we all share.

However, as expressed in Suzanne's message last week it's really important that we stay calm and do not encourage unnecessary fear and panic.

Caring for patients who are unwell, often with infectious disease, is what we do every day.

We have the skills, knowledge and support to do the right thing and if we remain calm and approach each patient as we would normally we will get through this challenging time.


The situation at ASPH

We are now treating a small number of patients with confirmed COVID-19 on the St Peter's Hospital site. As many of you will know we have moved some wards around to create dedicated COVID assessment and cohort areas, to enable us to care for these patients in isolation, by teams following national infection prevention and control protocols.

New Infection Prevention and Control advice has been issued which you can access on our intranet. A surgical mask is now national advice for any interaction with a suspected or confirmed case unless in specific cohort areas or when undertaking aerosol generating procedures.


How we are managing our response to COVID-19

We have implemented a formal command and control structure. I am the Senior Responsible Officer for COVID-19 preparedness and response and oversee Bronze, Silver and Gold meetings through the week. We have also established a COVID-19 Clinical Reference Group for clinical oversight and guidance. The team and I also do a daily conference call with the Chief Operating Officers of our Surrey Heartlands system partners and weekly regional and national calls, to ensure we are fully briefed and responding as system. Suzanne is also part of the national advisory team.

To help cope with the extra pressures on inpatient beds that will be presented by COVID-19 we have stopped elective operating at the St. Peter's site and inpatient orthopedics at Ashford, except for the most urgent cases. Last week and this we are holding "Reset Week" with a focused effort in increasing discharges and reducing long length of stay. In addition we have cancelled all non-essential meetings, conferences and events and would ask you to think about this in your teams.

This week we are working on bringing testing for COVID-19 on site so we are able to obtain results more quickly. We have also purchased a significant amount of additional clinical equipment including ventilators and monitors in order to be fully prepared should we need this going forward.


New measures

1 - Visiting Restrictions

In line with many other hospitals we have taken the decision to immediately restrict visiting to all inpatient areas until further notice to protect patients, visitors and staff. The new arrangements are as follows and we will be issuing external communications to this effect.

  • Essential visitors only (immediate family or main carers)
  • No children
  • Only one visitor per patient per day
  • Visits to last less than one hour
  • Visiting to only take place between 6pm & 8pm
  • Anyone with cold or flu symptoms, persistent cough or raised temperature must not visit

The exceptions to this will be visitors to patients at the end of their life, patients in intensive care, babies in the neonatal intensive care unit, inpatient children and birth partners to the maternity unit. In these incidences we ask that only one visitor attends at any time and no children or babies attend.


2 - Changes to outpatient appointments

All clinical teams are asked to consider how to run their outpatient clinics via phone or video and we are looking at ways to implement this at speed. Where it isn't possible to provide an appointment virtually we are asking individual clinicians to assess if the patient should attend in person, taking into account national guidance and risk assessment. Further information on this will follow.


3 - Remote working

Where possible, we are asking all colleagues to maximise opportunities to work from home, so we can reduce the number of people on site. This is important to reduce the risk of infection to teams on site. More information and guidance around this will follow but for now please familiarise yourself with the Enabling Remote Working policy and begin discussing how you can best manage remote working within your team.


What you can do:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after using public transport.
  • Use a sanitiser gel if soap and water are not available.
  • Always carry tissues with you and use them to catch your cough or sneeze. Then bin the tissue, and wash your hands, or use a sanitiser gel.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are unwell.
  • Stay at home for seven days if you develop a high temperature or new, continuous cough or flu like symptoms.


Keep updated by:

  • Familiarising yourself with the COVID-19 Resource Centre on Trustnet. All up-to-date information and guidance will be held here.
  • Reading the daily COVID-19 Bulletin that will be sent to all staff at 2:30 pm daily
  • Familiarising yourself with the relevant infection, prevention and control information. Arrange to be fit-tested if required.


I hope that this gives you an insight into the work we are doing, and how we are planning to manage the situation. I am sure that you all understand just how quickly this situation is changing and evolving and we will have to continue to adapt quickly to support this. The staff briefing sessions that we held at both the Ashford and St. Peter's sites will continue again this week, information about these will follow.

Public health emergencies are stressful times for everyone, especially those directly affected. It's important to be kind and supportive to each other. Words matter, and using language that perpetuates fear can make difficult times even worse for everyone. Please talk positively and emphasise the importance of effective prevention measures. Lastly, I would like to take this opportunity to thank you all for your incredibly hard work and dedication. We know that things are difficult at the moment and will do whatever is possible to keep you and our patients safe.

With best wishes,

James Thomas
Chief Operating Officer


Chief Executive's Message

On a regular basis, our Chief Executive sends a message to staff about events at the hospitals, special achievements, and plans for the future.

We shall be adding them to this section as well as including them on our Twitter and Facebook pages.

From time to time, we shall ask other members of the Trust Board and clinical team to give their perspective on the week in our hospitals.