The Western Health and Social Care Trust (Trust) have released a publication detailing Stage Two of their ‘Rebuilding Plan’ following the Covid-19 pandemic, which outlines how services will be provided from July to September 2020.

A spokeswoman on behalf of the Trust stated: “The Western Health and Social Care Trust (Trust) continues to assess the risk of Covid-19 for our service users, patients, clients and staff as well as the risk associated with the direct impact that managing Covid-19 has on reducing the capacity and access to other services for our community.”

“The Trust also needs to stay prepared for a potential second surge which could coincide with winter pressures, meaning we cannot return all our services back to the way they were before the pandemic. We need to prioritise and focus on treating the people which have been assessed as our most urgent cases first, and as a result some patients and service users will wait longer for their assessment, contact or intervention than we would like,” the spokeswoman added.

As requested by the Health Minister, the Trust published a Stage One plan covering the period to June 30, 2020 aimed at taking the early steps to plan for and increase capacity locally and across the system. The Department of Health has now set out planning for Stage Two. In support of this, the Trust has set out an overview of the services that they plan to maintain and rebuild as part of the Covid-19 response during July, August and September 2020.

For Urgent and Emergency Care services, they plan to reinstate the Ambulatory Care Unit at Altnagelvin and the Same Day Emergency Care unit in SWAH.

Under Inpatient Elective/Emergency and Day Case Surgery for Adults and Paediatrics services, the Trust have stated in the publication that at the South West Acute Hospital they will provide 10 sessions per week with a combination of GA (general admission) day case and inpatient procedures as required.

The Trust will review cancer patients whose treatment was deferred, not started or stopped due to Covid-19 and prioritise for review and treatment as clinically appropriate. The venesection service will be recommenced (40-45 patients per week) and the Trust will reinstate on-treatment breast and prostate radiotherapy reviews which had been stood down.

Within the Trust’s Integrated Maternity and Women’s Health services, general gynaecology outpatient clinics will be increased incrementally with clinically urgent being the priority for face to face appointments.

In the Trust’s ‘Rebuilding Plan’ it states under Screening Services that there are currently no plans to recommence the bowel screening service. When asked why are there no plans to recommence the bowel screening service, a spokeswoman for the Trust said: “The resumption of the regional Bowel Cancer Screening Service is a decision for the Public Health Agency and the Chief Medical Officer. The invitations and the initial screening tests are sent out by PHA and not by the Western Trust.

“The initial aim is to reduce the backlog for screening colonoscopy for patients who had tested positive on bowel cancer screening and the Western Trust recommenced Colonoscopy on May 22, 2020.”

Under Children’s ASD Service (Autism Spectrum Disorder), it states that capacity will “also be reduced due to the physical environment in which the Children’s ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) services are currently accommodated within and adherence to social distancing guidelines” before outlining that the service is anticipating a further increase in requests for support and intervention due to the length of time children and young people have been out of school and the increased pressure parents/carers are experiencing caring for children. When asked by this newspaper what plans they are putting into place to accommodate this expected increase in requests for support and intervention, the Trust spokeswoman stated: “The Western Trust’s Children’s ASD Team have adopted new ways of working to maintain service provision to children, young people and their families. In line with social distancing measures, most contact with families is being undertaken remotely, except for urgent cases who are seen in person. This has increased the number of families who can access support in a timely way.

“The Children’s ASD team has established a helpline through which clinicians are available to support those who call the service, for example children with a diagnosis of ASD or currently awaiting ASD assessment or other professionals requiring support.

“Resources are being developed and sent out to support families as required. A range of online parent autism intervention sessions are being developed and shared with families where appropriate.”

The Trust has also stated that the Child and Adolescent Mental Health (CAMHS) service delivery with regards to overall capacity will be affected “by approximately 30 per cent”.