Coronavirus test pods in place in Milton Keynes as hospital readies for pandemic

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Two mobile coronavirus testing “pods” have been placed outside Milton Keynes Hospital as the health service gears up for a spike in cases.

The tests – for people with an appointment only – involve staff wearing blue full body protective clothes, including full face masks, taking swab samples through car windows while drivers and passengers stay inside.

The issue of the covid-19 virus in Milton Keynes was raised during Friday morning’s meeting of the board of directors of Milton Keynes University Hospital Trust.

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John Blakesley, the hospital’s deputy chief executive, said: “We probably will get more and more people coming forward for testing and I’m hoping not to have the unit in front of accident and emergency.

The hospital trust boardThe hospital trust board
The hospital trust board

“We’re hoping to move it to the urgent care centre to free up a bit of space.”

The test pods are being run by Milton Keynes Clinical Commissioning Group, which said that the testing facility is not open to the public and is accessible by appointment only.

The hospital’s medical director, Dr Ian Reckless, told the board that it is a “very rapidly changing situation” and that the hospital is making preparations.

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The board was told that the hospital has one spare ward after a better than expected winter season.

Chief executive Joe Harrison said: “We’ve got spare capacity and plans in place, and we are going through them now.”

However, the trust is making plans to delay non urgent operations to be able to cope with coronavirus.

It currently has one patient who has been waiting for more than 50 weeks, but this may rise as staff are switched to deal with coronavirus cases.

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Dr Reckless said: “In the context of a pandemic this will increase. Our 50 week waits are reviewed and we are confident that delays will cause no significant harm.”

The trust board also viewed positively the hospital’s involvement with patients being kept in isolation at Kent’s Hill conference centre when they returned to the UK from China.

Dr Reckless said: “This hospital really pulled together and delivered.”

The hospital is also thinking about what to do with family members who may want to visit relatives who end up in hospital with coronavirus.

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Dr Reckless said they are looking into using apps like Facetime, so relatives can keep in touch without being at the bedside.

The board also heard that the hospital is currently advising patients with illnesses such as rheumatoid arthritis, where treatment suppresses their body’s immune system, to continue with their treatment.

Gemma Berrill, the hospital’s lead advanced nurse practitioner in rheumatology said: “Our advice is that patients should keep taking their treatments because the risk of a flare-up is greater than the risk of coronavirus.”

The CCG said that if anyone has any concerns that they are at risk of coronavirus they should not attend any healthcare facility and avoid contact with other people as you would with the flu and contact NHS111.