EMERGENCY plans are in place to deal with as many as 100 new coronavirus cases a day from Farnham when the pandemic peaks.
Dr David Brown, clinical director of the Farnham primary care network, said GPs expect it to peak locally over the Easter weekend (April 11/12) – but added plans were in place to cope with the surge in demand.
The Farnham Dene GP said: “At the moment it’s still quiet in terms of what’s happening with COVID in this area, but all our planning is towards dealing with the peak at Easter.
“Within Farnham, all the GP surgeries and community teams are pulling together on these plans.
“We are working with Frimley Park Hospital and North East Hampshire and Farnham Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) to deal with the surge.”
He added Farnham Hospital had been earmarked to play a central role in the area’s response to the crisis – with designated ‘hot’ areas set aside for coronavirus patients from across the CCG area, including Fleet and Farnborough, as well as Farnham.
Another contingency plan could see a ‘rapid assessment facility’ put up in the hospital’s car park, utilising tents and marquees supplied by Farnham Town Council.
This will enable the hospital to keep coronavirus patients further removed from those without symptoms, building on its existing ‘hot’ and ‘cold’ areas.
The tented ‘hot site’ would be used both in and out of normal working hours, manned by Farnham’s own clinicians by day, and out-of-hours GP provider North Hants Urgent Care by night.
It is also anticipated the hospital could lose around 20 per cent of its workforce to self-isolation over the peak, and Dr Brown added the hospital and its partner GP practices were doing everything they could to reduce the risk.
Many clinicians are already working remotely to reduce footfall in surgeries, triaging patients online by video consultations and over the phone.
Protocols for the donning of personal protection equipment are in place for those seeing patients face to face, and designated isolation rooms are also being decontaminated in between cases.
In anticipation of the Easter surge, the government has also designated Easter Friday and Easter Monday as normal working days for GPs – meaning it will be ‘all hands on deck’ over the holiday period.
Dr Brown said: “We are at least a couple of weeks behind London, and the number of cases is quite low.
“But it was recently reported the doubling time for infections was every three days for the UK, so we expect that to go up rapidly.
“We’re planning to be able to deal with up to 100 cases a day, at the surge.
“I think we can cope with that demand because all the practices working together makes us much more resilient in dealing with it.
“But no-one actually knows what the numbers will be.”
Dr Brown has implored everyone to do their bit too, by following social distancing advice, to use the 111 service if they have symptoms, to ensure their GP practice has their up-to-date mobile phone number, and to nominate a pharmacy to send prescriptions to electronically.