Northamptonshire's hospitals were "in the dark" over new rules on face coverings for visitors and staff

NGH chief warns of "huge logistical challenge" of implementing new directives

By Kevin Nicholls
Tuesday, 9th June 2020, 12:13 pm

Northamptonshire's NHS trusts were "in the dark" over new Government rules on wearing face masks in hospitals before they were announced, according to the chief executive of NHS Providers.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock's announcement that all visitors and outpatients must wear face coverings and all staff need to use surgical masks anywhere in hospitals from Monday (June 15) came as a shock to those at Northampton General and Kettering General hospitals.

NHS Providers chief executive Chris Hopson said local NHS Trust leaders felt "completely in the dark" about the "significant and complex" changes.

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And today Northampton General Hospital chief executive Dr Sonia Swart admitted: "Hospitals are good at implementing directives at short notice, often needing to work over and above with senior managers, support staff, and front line staff pulling together time and time again.

"Chris Hopson’s pragmatic honesty conveys the need to respect the huge logistical challenges."

Mr Hancock also allowed individual hospitals to relax some restrictions on visitors introduced to slow the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic in March — although neither Northampton or Kettering hospital will be taking up the option.

Mr Hopson told BBC Radio 4's Today programme the announcement on face coverings was: "The latest in a long line that have had a major impact on the way the NHS operates, in which front-line organisations feel they've been left completely in the dark, and they're then expected to make significant and complex operational changes either immediately or with very little notice."

Staff and visitors must wear face masks in hospitals from Monday. Photo Getty Images

He said that leaders of individual NHS Trusts feared the Government was making "last minute decisions on the hoof that seem overly influenced by politics and that need to fill the space of the Downing Street press conferences."

NHS Providers deputy chief executive Saffron Cordery also said trusts were nervous about the imminent lifting of some rules on visiting land she said they needed time to "put in place processes and guidance to ensure that patients can receive visitors safely and while adhering to social distancing and infection control measures".

A joint statement issued by NGH and KGH said: "We are continuing with current restrictions as we believe this helps to keep our patients and staff safe and reduces the risk of cross infection."

No visitors have been allowed into Northampton General Hospital since March 25 with some exceptions in maternity and children's wards — where only one parent is allowed in at one time.

Northampton General Hospital's chief executve Dr Sonia Swart