In the last 15 months the pandemic has affected our lives in an unexpected and unprecedented way. As you know, lung transplant recipients were immediately classified as clinically extremely vulnerable individuals at risk of complications and death from COVID-19. Subsequent experience has unfortunately confirmed this risk.
Our priority at all times has been to keep you safe, and we have reconfigured services with this in mind (for example by introducing video clinics, remote immunosuppression and lung function monitoring) while also making sure we follow regulations issued by Public Health England. These changes have been hard and unsettling - for you and us alike - yet we have all embraced them with stoicism. We are grateful to you for that.
We know that your experience in clinic and on our wards has been affected by new processes and ways of doing things. Social distancing and infection control measures still impact the delivery of care and have affected a wide range of services from waiting areas to lung function and X-rays. Restrictions have affected not only the experience in clinic (for example waiting outside or in your car) but have also had a significant effect on the availability of investigations (for example number of lung function tests available). Our services have also been hampered by staff sickness and redeployment, especially during the surges. We ask for your continued understanding of the challenges we still face in making sure your safety comes first. It has now become apparent that COVID-19 is going to inform our decision-making for some time to come.
From the start of the pandemic we knew that communication was key and we stayed in touch with you in different ways either on the phone, or via SMS or with live events. We are now reaching out to you to tell you a little more about how we expect and plan for the lung transplant outpatient clinic to run for the foreseeable future:
- We plan to continue to offer a mixture of face-to-face and virtual consultations.
- We are working towards annual, routine face-to-face consultations with most other routine consultations remaining virtual.
- Those of you who have ongoing clinical issues (for example deteriorating lung function, recent hospital admission) will be offered face-to-face or virtual consultations based on your individual needs and preferences.
- You have been offered new handheld spirometers which enable you to send us your lung function in advance of clinic consultations via PDF. Please remember to email clinic your lung function results before your consultation and bring your phone with you in clinic. Departmental lung function slots remain limited and this will help us use the time effectively to make decisions about your care. If you are unsure about how to use a new spirometer, please make an appointment for a face to face consultation stating the reason and we will teach you how to use it when in clinic.
- Remote blood monitoring (via local providers) and immunosuppression finger prick testing will continue where possible to minimise travel and reduce the number of people on the hospital site. We ask for your collaboration in having bloods results sent to Harefield by local providers. This will reduce the amount of time the clinic nurses have to spend chasing up blood results on the telephone and enable them to spend more time with you at your clinic visit.
- Social distancing (including physical separation and face masks) will be maintained in the clinic waiting area. This may at times mean that you will need to wait outside or in your car. We recognise that this is not ideal but unfortunately clinic space remains limited with significant requirements for social distancing. We are working with the hospital management team to address the physical environment to make this easier.
- Although your loved ones will not be allowed to join you for face-to-face consultations yet, we strongly encourage you to involve them in the consultation by enabling them to dial in (via phone or video) if you so wish. Exceptions will be made for carers, minors or in special circumstances.
As we learn to live with a new normal we would like to reassure you that we – your lung transplant team - have your best interests at heart and are doing our best to keep you safe and well while following the rules and regulations set by government and other authorities.