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18 months before hospitals are back to normal

Hospitals in our region Photo: ITV News Anglia

It could be 18 months before hospitals services in our region are back to normal as many Chief Executives announce plans to restart some elective procedures following a decrease in the number of coronavirus cases in the East.

It's thought the knock-on effect on waiting lists could be huge.

The Chief Executive of Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge, Roland Sinker, warned that it would be a long time before things at the site begin to look anything like normal.

"Throughout the last 8-10 weeks we've maintained a range of services, and we're now engaged in a planning process for the next 18 months which will look to restart our services in a phased way"

"There will be no return to the 'normal' of 10 weeks ago."

Addenbrooke's cancelled over 1800 operations when the site went into lockdown, and there are now over 9000 people on the waiting list.

The hospital has seen a big drop in the numbers of coronavirus patients they're seeing on a daily basis, and announced they'd be phasing in other services over the next 18 months.

"Covid is still with us, and we're now engaged in a process on a service by service basis how we can start to restart services in a phased was which looks after our staff and our patients."

"In numbers of coronavirus patients we've gone from around 10 patients a day to around 2."

There have been over 100 deaths at the hospital since the start of the outbreak. Mr Sinker said he'd urge people to be careful when coming to the hospital.

"We'd urge all of our visitors to follow the guidance set out by the government, and when they do come to the hospital they'll see quite clear guidance about how to safely enter the hospital. We need to keep alot of visiting restrictions in place for now, but we'll grow and develop the means to allow families to communicate with relatives inside the hospital."

Across the region, hospitals are making plans to restart elective procedures, with many warning of an impact on waiting lists.

At the Luton and Dunstable hospital they're resuming more planned surgery, but say the way all hospitals work will have to change.

The hospital warned that the effect of social distancing, PPE and extra entrance precautions would have an effect on waiting lists - and added that things would not look normal for some time to come.

In Milton Keynes some elective procedures are starting this week, some critical clinics have been running throughout and virtual clinics have temporarily replaced traditional ones in some areas.

At the Norfolk and Norwich hospital, they're looking to restart the day procedure unit and some endoscopy by the end of May.

The West Suffolk Hospital trust said their restart would be phased:

"Like many trusts, we are starting to work through what services can be ‘turned on’ again, and during what timeframe; this understandably requires planning and consideration, in order to support social distancing and other guidance so that we keep staff and patients safe.

The return of elective care will be phased, but services are beginning to be resumed. Patients will continue to be prioritised in terms of most urgent need, and will be contacted directly. We’re grateful for everyone’s patience and understanding."

At the James Paget hospital in Gorleston, they've already started to undertake some planned operations and procedures. They're looking to increase capacity for this work in the weeks ahead.

Ipswich and Colchester hospitals say they're carefully planning how best to ‘re-start’ the hospital in the coming days and weeks.

"The first priority will be given to patients who need urgent and clinically necessary care. We will work through a planned, phased programme to achieve full capacity."

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