Coronavirus: Matt Hancock says UK ‘must take no chances’
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Professor Keith Willett, NHS strategic incident director, has instructed all hospitals to have the pods up and running no later than Friday. The letter seen by The Independent, reportedly dated January 31, was sent to hospital bosses throughout England. In it, Professor Willet, who is leading the NHS's response to coronavirus, told NHS bosses: "Plans have been developed to avoid a surge in emergency departments due to coronavirus .
"Although the risk level in this country remains moderate, and so far there have been only two confirmed cases, the NHS is putting in place appropriate measures to ensure business as usual services remain unaffected by any further cases or tests of coronavirus."
He added: "Trusts are being asked to organise a coronavirus priority assessment pod, which will mean people with symptoms indicative of infection will get quick assessment, while other patients also continue to get appropriate care."
The letter states when someone arrives at hospital showing symptoms of coronavirus, they must be sent to the pods where they will use a telephone to call the specialist NHS 111 assessment service.
The pods must be in "an isolated area of the hospital, which is away from the emergency department and able to be decontaminated after every use".
Coronavirus: The NHS has instructed hospitals to create ‘priority assessment pods’ (Image: GETTY)
Coronavirus: A bus transporting passengers from China, leaves Arrowe Park Hospital in Wirral (Image: REUTERS)
The letter added if a patient needs to be admitted or requires further testing, NHS 111 will contact the A&E department in their "red phone" to proceed with the next steps.
It added: It added: "The pod will need to be decontaminated in accordance with (Public Health England) guidance following each NHS 111 assessment."
The letter concluded hospitals will need to plan for "measures to deal with the potential for increasing numbers of patients."
But one hospital executive told The Independent the instruction for hospitals to install the pods in an "overreaction", and could create "more anxiety and inappropriate referrals".
Coronavirus: Thousands of people continue to be tested (Image: GETTY)
They added: "I think we should be sending teams out to swab in patients homes as the advice is to stay at home and self-manage as with any other flu.
"Once the public is aware that we have the pods in place, it could create more anxiety and inappropriate referrals."
Dr Bharat Pankhania, senior clinical lecturer at the University of Exeter, believes people suspected of suffering from coronavirus should be sent home and assessed from there.
He said: "The British people are extremely compliant.
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Coronavirus: More than 25,000 people globally have been infected (Image: GETTY)
Coronavirus: Travel in and out of China continues to be heavily restricted (Image: GETTY)
"This is a use of precious NHS resources when we have tried and tested processes after the swine flu pandemic where we didn't do this.
"Putting someone in a pod creates a temporary holding station where there are all sorts of issues about ventilation and air clearance etc that could raise the risk of infection.”
The Department of Health has confirmed 468 people in the UK have now tested negative for coronavirus, with two positive cases.
Earlier today, Health Secretary Matt Hancock chaired a meeting of the government's Cobra emergencies committee for an update on the UK's response to the coronavirus outbreak.
Almost 500 people globally have died from coronavirus, with some 25,000 infected.
What is Coronavirus? (Image: EXPRESS)
Earlier today, Mr Hancock said the Government is “taking no chances” with British citizens at risk of coronavirus as the Foreign Office scheduled its last evacuation flight from China.
On Tuesday, the Foreign Office urged all British nationals to leave China after the outbreak continued to claim lives.
The Health Secretary appeared on BBC Breakfast and when asked how logistically Britons are expected to return to the UK, he said: “There are still commercial flights available.
“The principle that we are taking is that we want to take no chances with this virus.
He added: “We want to take a science-led approach.
Coronavirus: Matt Hancock chaired a meeting of the government's Cobra emergencies committee (Image: PA)
“The approach we have been taking is very much driven by the advice of the chief medical officer.
“This is a very serious virus and having a very serious impact in China.
“There are two cases only here in the UK but we do expect more, so we are taking no chances.”
The PA news agency reported 165 Britons and their dependents remain in the Hubei province in China, the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak, while 108 people have requested assistance to leave as of the early hours of Wednesday.
A total of 94 UK nationals and family members have already been evacuated back to Britain from two flights after boarding two flights which arrived on Friday and Sunday.
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