COVID-19 (coronavirus) staff frequently asked questions
Staff will of course be aware of the growing impact of the Coronavirus (now known as COVID-19). The Trust is planning for a surge in the number of people testing positive for the virus, presenting at our hospitals and being admitted.
For full up-to-date staff information on COVID-19 please visit the NHS website.
Please see this helpful video for more information.
For guidance by specialty on management of patients during this time, please see here: https://www.england.nhs.uk/coronavirus/secondary-care/other-resources/specialty-guides/
What is COVID-19 and should I be concerned?
A COVID-19 is a type of virus. As a group, coronaviruses are common across the world.
Generally, coronavirus can cause more severe symptoms in people with weakened immune systems, older people, and those with long term conditions like diabetes, cancer and chronic lung disease.
What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
COVID-19 is a new illness which can affect your lungs and airways. It’s caused by a virus called coronavirus. The symptoms of coronavirus are:
- A new, continuous cough.
- A high temperature.
The symptoms are similar to other illnesses that are much more common, such as cold and flu.
What do I do if I suspect I may have COVID-19?
Stay at home if you have coronavirus symptoms. Under current guidance, you should stay at home for seven days if you have either:
- a high temperature – you feel hot to touch on your chest or back
- a new, continuous cough – this means you’ve started coughing repeatedly
If you live with other people, they should stay at home for 14 days from the day the first person got symptoms.
If you live with someone who is 70 or over, has a long-term condition, is pregnant or has a weakened immune system, try to find somewhere else for them to stay for 14 days.
If you have to stay at home together, try to keep away from each other as much as possible.
Do not go to a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital. You do not need to contact 111 to tell them you’re staying at home and testing for coronavirus is not needed if you’re staying at home.
Staff should also contact their manager and email the Occupational Health Team (OH) on Covid19.email@example.com to see if you are eligible for staff testing. Additional information can be found here. There is a requirement for the staff member to contact OH again prior to returning to work to enable a risk assessment to be undertaken, to ensure it is safe for them to return. Absence will be recorded as special leave/medical suspension, to ensure staff are paid during the period of self-isolation.
What is the process for swabbing patients for COVID-19?
On the advice of microbiology, for COVID-19 testing you are no longer required to take a left and right nose swab along with a left and right throat swab (four swabs in total), one swab for nose and one swab for throat will be sufficient (two swabs).
Please ensure that all swabs taken for COVID-19 testing are double-bagged and taken by hand to the pathology laboratory. The airtube must not be used under any circumstance for these samples.
How do I care for a suspected or confirmed COVID-19 (coronavirus) patient?
Please follow this flow chart for guidance on case management: Management of a suspected case of COVID-19
Hospital planning and processes
Are visiting times changing in our hospitals?
In line with national guidance we have suspended visiting arrangements to help respond to Coronavirus and protect our staff, visitors and patients.
The only exceptions are:
- The maternity department will allow one birthing partner to attend
- Parents who do not show the symptoms of infection can visit their children
Any other visits are by exception only and typically will be granted on compassionate grounds agreed in advance with the nurse in charge of the ward. If granted, the majority of these visits will be taking place between 6pm and 7pm. No visitors under 16 will be allowed.
In relation to End of Life visiting our statement said that any other visits are to be by exception only and typically will be granted on compassionate grounds agreed in advance with the nurse in charge of the ward.
Find more guidance and a risk assessment in the attached document: Visiting for End of Life Care
What is the guidance around discharging patients from hospitals?
Accelerate discharge guidance – for the attention of acute staff and community in-reach services – in response to the Covid19 pandemic, the government released new guidance in March 2020 stating that all acute hospitals and community providers should be working to a “Discharge To Assess” model. There were a number of key messages from this document but the overarching statement was; ‘Unless required to be in hospital, patients must not remain in an NHS bed’.
More information is available in the New discharge guidance – acute and inreach services [docx] 309KB
Can loved ones contact friends and relatives in hospital? How can staff support this?
With visiting suspended across our hospitals relatives and families will have added anxiety about their loved on in hospital as they cannot get the regular updates they may have done at visiting time. With ward staff not meeting relatives they cannot be assured who is on the telephone when they ring for information and are subsequently following confidentiality guidance and limiting the information they give.
Under normal circumstances if a relative was unable to visit or a patient was vulnerable or lacked capacity a password system would be set up; this would involve identifying an agreed word password between the patient and the family member; a mutually recognised word; again this cannot be managed under current restrictions.
Where can we find more information about end of life care and palliative patients?
All staff please find the up to date clinical resources for end of life care and palliative patients. This information is updated daily.
You will find resources on ReSPECT conversations and its completion, difficult conversations, care of the dying person, and updated symptom management guidance in line with expected shortages of drugs and syringe drivers.
As always please utilise your SPC team for complex support on 07442531744 for Pilgrim, bleep 3977 at Lincoln and Grantham via Hospice in a Hospital.
Are we cancelling routine operations and appointments?
All routine elective surgery has been postponed. This move is being made as part of our response to the current COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak, enabling hospitals to free up staff to care for patients in other areas.
This does not include cancer surgery and other clinically urgent cases.
All affected patients will be contacted directly to inform them of the cancellation.
Will we be using telephone and e-consultations?
The plan is to transition all specialties from face-to-face appointments to telephone consultations and video consultations.
To enable the transition we need you to identify a clinical lead for each specialty and make the clinical teams aware that booked patients will need reviewing to determine who can be seen via video consultations and telephone consultations or if necessary, any patients that still require face to face attendance.
(Expectation for the clinical lead, to support the transition, be the clinical point of contact for service, to help identify patient cohorts and specific patients that can be transitioned to video consultations and telephone consultations).
The specific dates for each speciality transition over the next two weeks is currently being discussed ready for implementation. The outpatients appointments team will then contact all identified patients to arrange a video consultation or telephone consultation appointment and this will be clearly identified on each clinic list.
Guidance and support for clinicians will be available from the outpatient teams during the transition.
To note, there have been an increasing number of outpatient appointment cancellations by patients due to the COVID-19 updates which will result in increased partial booking waiting lists and open referrals, so this provides an alternative solution to manage patients and the impact on future waiting times.
A full triage of all clinic rooms has been undertaken to determine the IT equipment required to support video consultation.
The outpatient teams will be in contact to discuss further and to register for video consultation. If you have any questions in the meantime, please contact either:
- Clare Frank – Project Manager.
- Leanne Poole – Outpatient Transformation Lead.
- Michael Frisby – Outpatient Operational Manager.
Are hand sanitisers being stolen in our hospitals?
Staff will have no doubt seen the reports in the media of people panic buying items such as hand gels, hand washes and masks. Washing your hands with soap and water is the best method for protecting against COVID-19.
There have been reports across the country of hand gels going missing from hospitals. Staff are asked to be vigilant and to ensure bottles of alcohol rub are left in sight.
Theft of Trust property will be treated seriously and anyone suspected of removing Trust property, including staff and members of the public, will potentially reported to the police.
Should a member of staff be found to have removed Trust property without a valid reason for doing so, this could potentially result in disciplinary, professional body and/or criminal sanctions against them.
If you have any concerns about the theft of Trust property, please raise your concern on Datix.
What do I do if a patient with COVID-19 or suspected COVID-19 comes into my service?
Plans have been developed that describe COVID-19 positive, or suspected COVID-19 patients, and this includes criteria that will help separate those that are highly likely and those that are only symptomatic. If you are unsure then you should discuss this with the leader of your department or area who will have your local procedure available to discuss.
What do I do if a patient with or with suspected COVID-19 needs resuscitation?
Resuscitation Council UK is continuously monitoring new information as it becomes available, and will update their advice accordingly as developments unfold. They fully support good hand hygiene and other preventive measures as per guidance from the government.
- If you are performing CPR in a healthcare setting, please read our statement entitled Resuscitation Council UK Statement on COVID-19 in relation to CPR and resuscitation in healthcare settings
- If you are performing CPR in a public setting, please read our statement entitled Resuscitation Council UK Statement on COVID-19 in relation to CPR and resuscitation in first aid and community settings
- If you are seeking specific advice on paediatric and child CPR, please read our statement entitled Resuscitation Council UK Statement on COVID-19 in relation to CPR and resuscitation in Paediatrics
- If you are teaching resuscitation or first aid techniques to healthcare professionals or members of the public, please read our statement entitled Resuscitation Council UK Statement on COVID-19 in relation to CPR and resuscitation for those teaching resuscitation techniques
Where do I go for advice?
NHS 111 has an online coronavirus service that can tell you if you need medical help and advise you what to do.
Internally, our infection prevention and control team can provide advice on FIT testing, COVID-19 testing and caring for patients with suspected COVID-19. Call them on 573152.
Are we locking down some of the doors on our sites?
For security reasons some of our external doors will be locked on a permanent basis from this weekend (March 28/29). Notices will be in place where this has happened. These maps clearly indicate what doors will be affected:
FIT testing and PPE
Remember the biggest impact we can all have to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is the appropriate use of PPE following the Public Health England guidance (https://bit.ly/39Bj7IB), washing your hands and adhering to social distancing at all times.
As a Trust we are moving to a place based personal protective equipment (PPE) approach.
We are making this change in response to the increasing numbers of patients we are caring for who have tested positive for COVID-19. This increase, alongside the rising numbers of queried COVID-19 patients being admitted to our wards and an increase in the number of staff who are absent, means the time is right for us to adopt this approach.
We are not changing the PPE that staff must use, only when they should use it.
A surgical fluid repellent mask should be worn by all staff when first entering clinical areas. Dispose of your mask in the orange bagged waste bins.
There is no need to wear any PPE in the communal areas unless you are transporting a patient.
When caring for suspected and COVID-19 positive patients you should continue to follow normal Infection Prevention and Control precautions and wear a surgical fluid repellent mask, single use apron, gloves, with eye/face protection as required which you will change between patients.
When performing an aerosol generating procedures or in high risk areas (ITU, ED) you should wear an FFP3 mask, a reusable long sleeved theatre gown that should be bagged up at the end of use and placed in a laundry bag, long sleeved gloves to be word over the gown cuffs and eye/face protection.
For a full list of what is classed as an aerosol generating procedure please see the intranet.
It is critical that we maintain bare below the elbow and washing of hands.
Further national guidance is available on the government website.
A visual guide to safe PPE is also available below:
Do I need to be FIT tested?
If you are working in an area where you will come into direct contact with a confirmed COVID-19 patient, or where you are carrying out aerosol generating procedures on confirmed or suspected COVID-19 patients, you should have already been contacted about FIT testing. If you are concerned please raise this with a supervisor in your area.
What order are you FIT testing people in?
FIT testing has already taken place in departments where confirmed COVID-19 patients may be treated and where aerosol-generating procedures on confirmed or suspected COVID-19 patients is taking place. Most staff have now been tested in these areas and testing will then continue across other areas in preparation for where surge capacity may be required.
What if I’ve failed FIT testing on a number of different masks?
Several masks are available for FIT testing should you fail, however there are other solutions if you do fail. This is something that our Infection Prevention and Control Team will advise you on if required.
Will we have enough PPE if this becomes a major outbreak?
We are putting plans in place so that we are well prepared in the event that this becomes a major outbreak. This includes working with NHS England and suppliers to ensure sufficient stocks of PPE.
Am I expected to remove my beard?
Having beards will most likely result in a failure of FIT testing. If your beard is something you have for reasons of faith, there is guidance from religious councils and from local faith leaders that may help with your choice around whether to shave or not. If you would like to know more about this or would like to discuss this please contact Reverend David Knight in Chaplaincy on 597717 or 07554 222461.
More information is available in the ‘Chaplaincy & Bereavement Services Standard Operating Procedures for Covid 19.’
How is the Trust helping to feed staff?
The Trust will be offering one free meal to all NHS staff on duty including agency staff.
The offer is for one of the following, a breakfast, lunch, evening or night meal. One meal per person, per shift.
The breakfast and lunch will be required to be signed for by the staff member at the point of collection or when it is delivered. A record of meals issued to evening and night workers will also be taken.
Social distancing in the restaurants needs to be adhered to at all times and no PPE is to be worn.
- Breakfast – 8am to 10.30am, 7 days a week: 1x bacon, sausage, beans, tinned tomatoes with bread roll or two slices of bread.
- Lunch time meal service – 11.45am to 1.45pm, 7 days a week: A choice of one main course of the day, or vegetarian option with cream/chip potatoes and a selection of vegetables. Alternatively a sandwich or boxed salad.
A delivery service will be available to some areas. Please phone the site restaurants to order.
- Evening and night service for staff
Microwaveable meals will be available for evening staff and night staff meal service.
The meals will be available at:
Lincoln – main reception
Pilgrim – main reception
Free tea and coffee is also available throughout the day.
When should I consider working from home?
In response to the Prime Minister’s recent announcement, we have asked all staff to continue to come to work including those who work in non-clinical areas. This will enable us to support our clinical areas with increased non-clinical support, as well as to complete our plans for surge response to the COVID-19 incident.
The latest government guidance says:
- If you have symptoms, stay at home for 7 days
- if you live with other people, they should stay at home for 14 days from the day the first person got symptoms
- If you live with someone who is 70 or over, has a long-term condition, is pregnant or has a weakened immune system, try to find somewhere else for them to stay for 14 days.
- If you have to stay at home together, try to keep away from each other as much as possible.
What is the Trust doing about annual leave?
Updated principles around taking annual leave have been agreed by the Trust Board alongside Staffside. These principles seek to ensure that we can balance the need to enable and indeed encourage staff to have leave to ensure their ongoing health and wellbeing, with our ability as a Trust to sustain services and ensure safe staffing levels. Please read the principles below:
Are staff being swabbed?
Testing is now open to all ULHT staff and anyone they live with, who have coronavirus-like symptoms.
ULHT staff without symptoms can also be referred, where there is a clinical need based on working in high risk areas judged on a case by case basis.
If you fit the criteria, please e-mail Covid19.firstname.lastname@example.org Occupational Health will then refer you to the national testing portal as a priority. You will receive a text message with a unique invitation code to book a test for yourself (if symptomatic) or their symptomatic household member(s) at a regional testing site. On your email you must please include: Surname, forename, DOB, telephone contact, ward or department, site, e-mail address, date symptoms started
Test results will continue to be sent directly to those tested within 48 hours of a swab being taken and we ask that you inform your manager and Occupational Health at: Occupational.Health@ulh.nhs.uk
What is the process if a member of staff has coronavirus?
If someone is off sick because of coronavirus, then the normal arrangements for managing sickness and sick pay apply. If the absence is longer than 7 days, then the staff member will be required to provide a fit note from the GP. There must be contact with OH before any staff member returns to work, so that a risk assessment can be undertaken.
If you are a bank employee and have evidence that you have booked to undertake shifts but have then to self-isolate, we will pay you for the booked shifts.
If staff are away on holiday and are put under any form of quarantine, then in principle we will continue to pay them whilst they are unable to work. However, if you are planning a holiday, perhaps at Easter and visit an area which the Government advises people not to visit and as a consequence you are unable to attend work, then the Trust will not pay you during your absence.
If you are fit for work, but are self-isolating then we would expect you to undertake tasks assigned to you at home. Your line manager will provide you with guidance on how to access ULHT systems at home and will outline the work that we would wish you to do. Completing core learning, responding to complaints and policy reviews are examples of work that could be done by some staff from home.
Before starting to work at home, a risk assessment will be required and your manager will work through this with you.
What do I do if someone I care for has COVID-19?
If you live with other people that have symptoms, you should stay at home for 14 days from the day the first person got symptoms.
If you live with someone who is at risk, try to find somewhere else for them to stay for 14 days.This action will help protect others in your community while you are infectious.
NHS 111 has an online coronavirus service that can tell you if you need medical help and advise you what to do.
What do I do if I can’t attend work due to caring for dependents due to COVID-19?
There will be some staff who will have to care for dependents who are either ill or are self-isolating.
We have agreed temporarily to extend carers leave to a maximum of 10 days. This will kept under review.
Whilst the Trust will wishes to support staff who have dependents at home, we will ask staff to be as flexible as possible in supporting patient care, by seeking to share caring responsibilities with other family members, or by potentially voluntarily adapting their working hours.
What do I do if my child’s school asks for validation that I work for the NHS in order to get key worker provision?
Following the school closures, Government guidelines say children of ALL NHS staff qualify for key worker school places. If you are asked by your school for validation that you work for the NHS and qualify please send this letter NHS Key Worker Validation – Childcare 20.03.20 along with a photo of your staff ID badge as proof.
What do I do if I am asked for proof of being a key worker?
Please use the attached letter for proof of being a key worker along with your photo ID – NHS Key worker validation
How do staff organise accommodation if they need to be away from their homes to be able to work?
The Trust has a plan for providing staff with accommodation to help support with maintaining services across the organisation. If a member of staff needs accommodation urgently because they are unable to return home due to friends or family members self-isolating in their homes, then please contact Kubi Addison on 07393009016 (Kubilay.Addison@ULH.nhs.uk) or the booking team on 01476 464576 or email@example.com.
A line manager will need to confirm that the booking that is being requested and is for the purpose of supporting services during the current COVID-19 pandemic. More information on the procedures to follow with regard to requesting accommodation are here: COVID-19 Accommodation Procedures for Staff 2020-03-19
What is the process for self-isolation?
If there’s a chance you could have coronavirus, you may be asked to stay away from other people (self-isolate).
- If you have symptoms of coronavirus infection (COVID-19), however mild, do not leave your home for 7 days from when your symptoms started.
- If you live with other people, they should stay at home for 14 days from the day the first person got symptoms.
- If you live with someone who is 70 or over, has a long-term condition, is pregnant or has a weakened immune system, try to find somewhere else for them to stay for 14 days.This action will help protect others in your community while you are infectious.
- Plan ahead and ask others for help to ensure that you can successfully stay at home.
- Ask your employer, friends and family to help you get the things you need to stay at home.
- Stay at least 2 metres (about 3 steps) away from other people in your home if possible.
- Sleep alone, if possible.
- Wash your hands regularly for 20 seconds, each time using soap and water.
- Stay away from vulnerable individuals, such as the elderly and those with underlying health conditions, as much as possible.
- You do not need to call NHS 111 to go into self-isolation. If your symptoms worsen during home isolation or are no better after 7 days, contact NHS 111 online. If you have no internet access, call NHS 111. For a medical emergency dial 999.
Further guidance can be found in the ‘stay at home guidance for employees with confirmed or possible Coronavirus (COVID-19) infection.’
What is the process for working from home?
In terms of enabling home working please complete the home access request form and return it to the email address indicated ASAP. This will enable digital services to assess and prioritise requirements. They will then distribute the required instructions and equipment.
IMPORTANT: Please ensure your staff who currently have a laptop take it home after each shift in case they are unexpectedly asked to work from home. They should also test the remote access ASAP as resolving issues whilst not on one of the Trust’s sites could be problematic.
How do I access Microsoft Office 365?
Microsoft Office is being released quickly to allow people to be able to use Office 365 as another way of accessing their work to help with the Covid-19 response. The role out will be targeted to allow individuals with specific needs to work collaboratively.
Teams Virtual Training
There are no more live sessions running at this time but there are recordings of the previous sessions available:
· Recordings for Introduction to Teams and Collaborating with Teams can be found here. Scroll to the bottom of the page to find them. Note, the recording for Running Live Events will be added soon. Please visit the nhs.net support site for further Teams guidance in relation to these recordings.
‘How to’ Guides and Support
If you have been invited to a team then please use the following guides to assist you.
We have created and collated a number of ‘How to’ guides (including from LCHS and Microsoft) which will help you get started with Office 365. We will be regularly updating and adding to these.
What shall I do about my university course?
We will be writing to those who run clinical courses at universities in our vicinity to make them aware that staff may be unable to attend course sessions owing to their need to provide direct patient care. We will ask to be flexible and ensure staff are not penalised.
We will also send a similar letter to all the local universities and colleges to assist any staff undertaking any courses.
How do I record coronavirus on ESR or Health Roster?
Staff who believe they have symptoms of the coronavirus should contact NHS 111 immediately for advice, they should not attend their GP Surgery, a hospital or their workstation. Self-quarantine for the 14 day period will classified as special leave, not sickness absence, however, if diagnosed as coronavirus, then this will be recorded as sickness absence. View the guidance on the COVID-19 intranet page.
Download a guide for Managers reporting of Covid 19 Absence, here.
If you have any HR queries, please email COVID-HRenquiries@ulh.nhs.uk
Is it ok to car share?
Car sharing should be avoided unless it is absolutely necessary, in which case no more than two people should travel together.