Accessing Private Treatment in a Covid-19 World

13 July 2020

In this new world in which we all find ourselves, attending medical appointments and visiting hospital will be quite a different experience. What follows is an outline of what you can expect when visiting a hospital or a clinic. Understandably, each provider will have their own systems in place, but outlined below is what we believe to be a typical example of some of the changes you can expect to experience. Our Chief Medical Officer (who practises both in the NHS and private sector) has spoken about this in a recent webinar that you can view on our Covid-19 page – together with other useful coronavirus updates.

Prior to visiting a hospital or clinic – remote consultations

  • Generally, the first point of call is likely to be a remote consultation with a Specialist following a GP referral (where required). Private hospitals have lists of available Specialists in order to book appointments. In the event that you do not know how to make an appointment with an appropriate Specialist, WPA Customer Service Officers also have access to these lists of Specialists and are able to assist.
  • Your Specialist may subsequently arrange an appointment for you to attend a clinic for tests (such as blood tests, x-ray and a scan).
  • The day before the appointment, you will most likely receive a triage call from the hospital to check whether you have experienced any Covid-19 symptoms; if displaying symptoms, you will probably be asked to be tested, self-isolate for 14 days and re-book your appointment.

Out-patient and face to face consultations

  • On arrival at the hospital you will be asked further questions about symptoms and have your temperature checked, before being directed to the correct department.
  • Hospitals have been working on introducing one-way systems and other social distancing measures in order to keep contact to a minimum. You will probably need to wear a face mask/covering.
  • During the out-patient appointment full Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) will be worn by the Specialist and healthcare staff. Any out-patient tests such as MRIs, ultrasound scans, x-rays and blood tests are likely to take longer than normal. Deep cleaning of equipment and communal areas will be conducted between patients.

Hospital in-patient admissions

  • If you are advised to come back to hospital for an operation or diagnostic procedure (such as a colonoscopy) you will be asked to self-isolate, along with all members of your household, for 14 days before admission to hospital.
  • You will be tested two days before surgery for Covid-19 - this may be at an NHS testing site or at the private hospital (possibly outside of the building). If the test proves negative you will be considered Covid-19 free and planned surgery can proceed, otherwise it will be postponed.
  • It is unlikely that any visitors will be allowed whilst you are in hospital other than to drop you off and pick you up.
  • On the day of admission, you will have your temperature checked and be asked to confirm that you have self-isolated and continue to be Covid-19 symptom free. You will be escorted to your private room which will have been deep cleaned between patients.
  • As part of the surgical consent process, you will discuss with your surgeon your surgery and any additional risks associated with Covid-19. Depending upon the surgery type, most patients will be required to self-isolate for a further 14 days after discharge. The follow-up appointment with the Specialist may take place remotely either by video or telephone consultation.

Infection control procedures

Practices in all clinics and hospitals have become more challenging because of the risk of coronavirus infection. The strict infection control procedures mean that it will take longer to carry out operations, with additional cleaning needed in operating theatres (before and after each procedure) and the use of special PPE.

Despite the strict measures and prioritisation for surgery that have been in place in recent months, WPA members have still been able to access treatment. We remain committed to helping our members and are here for you at every step of the way - if we can help, we will.