We’re open, and we have not forgotten you

9 November 2020

At the Royal Free London (RFL), the care and safety of our patients, staff and local communities is our top priority.

We would like to remind you that the NHS is open, and we are here for you should you need to access our services.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was essential for us to stop planned procedures to help us manage the increased number of patients with COVID-19 in our hospitals.  Urgent and emergency cases and cancer treatments continued, some of which was carried out in the independent sector.

We have now restarted all of our services and are open for business. We have re-organised how and where some of our care is provided. This is to help us continue to safely provide both planned and urgent/emergency care, while also ensuring that the trust is prepared for any further outbreaks of the virus.

We are aware that due to the on-going nature of the pandemic, some of our patients are waiting longer than we would like. 

Please be re-assured that if you are waiting, we have not forgotten you. We sincerely thank you for your continued patience and understanding.

We are working our way through our waiting lists as quickly and safely as possible, prioritising patients according to their clinical need.

Together with our partners across north central London, we are working to ensure our patients and local communities continue to receive the care they need.

We have extended out-patient clinic sessions, are carrying out procedures and operations on the weekend, and setting up more seven day services. This has helped us to see, diagnose and treat more people.

We are also committed to bringing about sustainable change and better ways of doing things for patients, for example providing virtual appointments and where possible, enabling patients to have the tests and investigations they need all in one visit.

If you are waiting for an appointment, operation or procedure, please be assured that we are here for you, and we will be in touch with you as quickly as possible.

Your questions answered

My out-patient appointment was postponed and I haven’t heard back from the hospital. What should I do?

If you are waiting for an appointment, please be assured that we have not forgotten about you. We are continuing to prioritise patients by clinical need, and we will be in touch as soon as an appointment is available.

If you have any concerns about your health condition or your condition has deteriorated, please contact your hospital service by calling the number at the top of your appointment letter or your GP.

If you have direct contact with your clinician, for example your hospital doctor or clinical nurse specialist, please contact them directly.

My surgery/procedure was cancelled and I have not received a new time/date for this. What should I do?

We are continuing to prioritise patients by clinical need, and will be in touch as soon as possible to arrange a new time/date. If you are concerned, please get in touch with your hospital service by calling the number at the top of your appointment letter or your GP.

I have been referred by my GP to the RFL and am waiting for an appointment – when can I expect to hear from you?

We are prioritising referrals by clinical need and we will be in touch with you as soon as we are able to arrange an appointment.

How do you prioritise patients?

We work with our partners across the health and care sector in north central London to ensure that patients receive the care they need in a fair and equitable way. This takes into account things such as clinical need and urgency of treatment.

I’m worried that my cancer has returned/spread as my symptoms are worse/different.

If you have a symptom that you are worried about, it is really important that you speak to your GP without delay.

If you are currently a cancer patient at the RFL, please contact your clinical nurse specialist for advice.

I’m experiencing a new symptom that worries me. What should I do?

If you have any symptom that you are worried about, speak to your GP without delay.

Is it safe for me to visit hospital?

We are managing the risk of infection to make sure that all patients coming into hospital, and staff working in hospitals, will be as safe as possible.

Steps being taken include:

  • We are separating/physically distancing, as much as possible, the facilities where we care for patients who have tested positive for COVID-19 or who may have symptoms of the virus or have risk factors for COVID-19, and patients being treated for planned care.
  • We are following national guidance for infection prevention and control and all staff are trained in how to limit the spread of infection in hospitals.
  • Hospital theatres, equipment and wards are deep-cleaned regularly, in line with national guidance. We’re also cleaning all other areas and frequently touched surfaces such as door handles and lift buttons more regularly.
  • We are enabling social distancing measures in our waiting areas, and more hand sanitising points are available in our hospitals.

If you have an appointment, test or planned operation/procedure, please visit us as planned. More information is available here.

Can I still attend hospital during the lockdown?

It is essential that you continue to access the care you need during the lockdown.

  • If you have a face-to-face appointment, test or planned operation/procedure, please visit us as planned.
  • If you have a phone appointment, your clinician or a member of their team will call you on the number we have registered for you on our systems as close to your appointment time as possible.
  • If you have a video appointment, please click here to join your appointment at the time/date of your appointment.
  • If you need urgent or emergency care, we are open and here to help. More information is available here.

If you have a questions about your appointment or are unsure if it is face to face other via telephone and are not able to speak to your service about this directly, please contact our patient advice and liaison service.

In an emergency, what should I do?

If you, or someone you know, is experiencing a serious or life threatening emergency (for example symptoms of a heart attack or stroke) you must dial 999 immediately.

If you require urgent care, please call NHS 111 first.

Our urgent care centre at Chase Farm Hospital and emergency departments at Barnet Hospital and the Royal Free Hospital are open. Full details are available here.

I have an appointment/planned procedure/operation during the lockdown. How do I know if this is still going ahead?

If there are any changes to your care, we will try to give you as much notice as possible. If you do not hear from us, please attend as planned.

If you are attending for an operation/procedure, please ensure you follow the advice you’ve been given by your clinician around pre-operation isolation.

More information is available here.

Are all planned (elective) procedures going to be cancelled again now we are going into lockdown?

It was essential for us to stop planned procedures to help us manage the increased number of patients with COVID-19 in our hospitals. However planned care restarted across the RFL in June. We have developed plans to help us prepare and respond effectively to a potential second surge and endeavour to continue to provide planned care in a safe way.

Some of the steps we have taken to help do this include:

  • Re-organising the way we use our hospitals. For example:
  • Patients needing care in hospital for COVID-19 are physically distanced as far as possible from others.
  • We may ask you to have your operation at a different location to where you expected, or change the time/date to ensure it can take place safely.
  • Patients also need to follow some pre-operation isolation guidelines to help us keep them and our staff safe.
  • Using lower-risk facilities that do not deal first hand with COVID-19 care, such as Chase Farm Hospital and the independent sector.
  • Working even closer with our partners to make sure our patients receive the care they need. For example, we are included in a group of fast track surgical hubs that have been set up across London to address waiting lists.

The safety of our staff, patients and their families is our top priority. We will continue to monitor the situation and follow national guidelines.

Do you expect to see a rise in the number of patients with COVID-19 coming into hospital over the coming weeks?

We are not seeing the same number of COVID-positive patients in our hospitals as we were in March/April. However, as with all hospitals across the NHS, we are actively putting in measures to deal with a potential increase.

Can I have my operation or care elsewhere?

Please be assured that it remains safe to come to our hospitals to receive the care you need. We have put a number of measures in place to keep you and our staff as safe as possible – read more about this here.

Patients can choose to have their care provided by another organisation. This would need to be arranged by a patient’s GP.

I would like to give feedback or raise a concern. Who can I speak to?

We encourage you to get in touch with us if you have any feedback or a concern. In the first instance, please speak with your healthcare professional.

Our patient advice and liaison service (PALS) is also available to support you should you need it. They are available by email and telephone and their details can be found here. During this time, please be advised that it may take them longer than usual to get back to you.

I would like to make a complaint. Who can I speak to?

If you would like to raise a complaint, please find more information here.