As you know COVID-19 has led to unprecedented demand on NHS services, and as such, we had to suspend or revise some services in line with guidance from NHS England and Public Health England.
Whilst the government is making plans for the country to return to normal all NHS organisations are still working at a level 4 incident, which means the response to the pandemic is still being co-ordinated at a national level.
One of the services that has continued to operate through the lockdown, albeit at reduced capacity has been our Phlebotomy service. However, as other services are now resuming we are seeing an increase in the number of patients being referred for blood samples, which is impacting on waiting times.
This change in service delivery required all patients to contact the Single Point of Contact (SPC) provided by Mersey Care NHSFT (MCFT) to book a planned appointment which saw the number of calls to SPC rise by 6,000 per cent, between April and July 2020, and the number of calls handled by SPC have increased to 3,000 a day on several occasions.
This volume of calls has led to increased waiting times which is understandably frustrating for patients and their carers. In order to improve patient experience, the trust has identified additional resource to support call handlers to manage the high volume of calls.
In addition, the trust is also working with colleagues at NHS Informatics Merseyside to implement a digital solution that will enable patients, referrers and administrative staff to electronically book our Phlebotomy appointments. This new online booking system is expected to be in place early August and will operate alongside SPC.
The service is currently offering sessions for booked urgent appointments only at:
Planned Increase in Service Provision
As part of the Mersey Care NHSFT response to safely increase capacity to address the demand for this key diagnostic service, we have had to plan the timely treatment of patients requiring access to our Phlebotomy services and, as such, we are in the process of re-starting services and increasing opening times across our clinics.
In order to support patients who require very urgent blood tests, a new hotline for referrers was introduced on Monday 13 July 2020. This hotline should only be used when a clinical blood test is deemed absolutely urgent by the referrer. The referrer will need to make the call on behalf of the patient when the clinical need requires the bloods to be taken within 24 hours.Plans are also in place to restart other clinics across the city and Childwall HC is in the process of being made COVID-safe ready for clinics to open in August 2020.
All other appointment should be made via the Central Management Office by phoning 0151 295 3400 option 4. The booking line is open Monday to Friday 8am-4pm. We are unable to accept calls in our queuing system after 3.15pm to enable us to respond to as many calls as possible before our 4pm closedown.
In addition to the drive through service operating at Hunter Street since June 2020, a second site at Jeffrey Humble sports ground in Walton, Liverpool, L9 has been identified as a potential test site by LUHFT and this will enhance current service provision. Mersey Care has made enquires in this regard and we are waiting further information from LUHFT.
Antibody testing will only be provided to those patients referred by their GP who need blood taken as part of other tests and procedures. Any patients referred for antibody testing will need a 15-minute appointment and we will continue to monitor the impact of antibody testing on service delivery.