This is an uncertain time for the whole country, we understand that even under ‘normal’ circumstances coming into a hospital can be a difficult time for many people, therefore this list of Frequently asked questions has been compiled to assist visitors and patients to our hospitals in addition to information patients will be sent in the normal course of their treatment. If you have further questions please do not hesitate to contact our Patient Advice and Liaison services.
Last updated 16 February 2022
As you will be aware, the NHS has come under great strain due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Much of the non-urgent hospital and community services were ‘paused’ - both as a safety precaution and to allow us to deliver the urgent care necessary.
While the restrictions of lockdown are easing, there are still measures in place which impact on the number of patients we are able to see and treat. If you are a patient on our waiting list, we have written to you to let you know that we haven’t forgotten about you, and to ask you to please bear with us as we start to make new appointments for our patients.
Some patients may have already received their appointments so if you have received yours, please attend that appointment as planned. If you are still waiting for your appointment, we appreciate that you may be disappointed and would like to reassure you that we will be in touch with you directly within the next three months with more information about when you may receive your appointment.
We also understand that you may be nervous about coming into hospital or a community setting but please be assured that we have taken all the necessary steps to keep everyone safe and reduce the potential transmission of the virus.
We will, of course, keep the national guidelines under review and if changes are made that affect when you may receive your appointment, we will be in touch.
If you are waiting for an appointment, your GP is aware that we will be back in touch soon so please do not contact them (or the surgery) for matters associated with you being on the waiting list. For other non-urgent medical conditions please contact NHS 111 or your GP surgery. For urgent conditions, you can contact NHS 111 for advice or if it is a life-threatening emergency, visit your local Emergency Department.
We would like to thank all of our patients and their loved ones for their continued patience and support during this difficult time. Our Trust has been able to respond well to the pandemic so far and a big part of that is down to the support we have received from our patients and local communities so thank you.
Much of the non-urgent hospital and community services were ‘paused’ during the pandemic - both as a safety precaution and to allow us to deliver the urgent care necessary.
Some patients may have already received their new appointments but, if you are still waiting for your appointment, we appreciate that you may be disappointed and would like to reassure you that as soon as we are in a position to send you a date; we will be in touch.
We will, of course, keep the national guidelines under review and if changes are made that affect when you may receive your appointment, we will be in touch.
Please do not contact your GP for matters associated with you being on the waiting list. For other non-urgent medical conditions please contact NHS 111 or your GP surgery. For urgent conditions, you can contact NHS 111 for advice or, if it is a life-threatening emergency, visit your local Emergency Department.
We would like to thank you for your continued patience and support during this difficult time for all. Our Trust has been able to respond well to the pandemic so far and a big part of that is down to the support we have received from our patients and local communities so thank you.
We know that people have been waiting longer than they should for their appointments but unfortunately, we can’t provide exact timescales for how long it will take for them to be seen.
Throughout this period, we have been providing urgent and emergency care for patients, including urgent elective surgery. We are now looking at how we can gradually and cautiously increase the levels of non-coronavirus activity in our hospitals. How quickly we can do this depends on a number of things, such as availability of appropriate PPE and staffing, along with how the pandemic evolves over the weeks and months ahead.
We appreciate everyone’s continued patience and we will contacts patients about their appointments as soon as possible.
People waiting for treatment will be notified by the Trust’s administrative team if their appointments have been rescheduled. Please do not contact the Trust directly to find out if your treatment is to be rescheduled as this will only add to the pressure on the organisation.
Unless the clinician needs to see you to physically examine or observe you, all outpatient appointments will be carried out via telephone or video clinics. This will enable us to continue to prevent people making unnecessary trips to hospitals and community setting wherever possible.
If you need diagnostic tests such as scans, x-rays, blood tests, etc, you will still be required to attend for your appointment in person.
If you do need to attend hospital for planned (non-emergency) care, you will be asked to take some steps to ensure you can get the care you need in an environment that keeps you safe, as well as staff and other patients.
- Admissions (including day surgery)
If you are being admitted to hospital, you and any members of your household will be asked to isolate at home for a few days prior. Where possible, you may be asked to complete a test within 72 hours before going to hospital. This will be arranged for you and you will be contacted with further details prior to your appointment. If you are unable to isolate effectively or be tested before coming to hospital, your admission may be rescheduled. This will be determined by your care team using clinical judgement and in consultation with you. Our admissions team will give you all the information you need when booking you in.
- Outpatient appointments
You should only attend your outpatient appointment if you have no symptoms of coronavirus. While at the appointment, it is important that you comply with infection prevention regulations including wearing a mask, washing your hands, and maintaining a safe distance.
At your appointment, you may notice some changes. These include:
- During your appointment, the clinician you are seeing may wear a mask and other protective equipment. You will also be asked to wear a mask in line with guidance, unless you are exempt. Social distancing will also be maintained where possible
- Tests will be carried out in line with national guidance with appropriate PPE where appropriate. If you need further tests, these will be arranged for you
- If you need further appointments, these will be arranged for you by the team taking care of you
We want to continue to treat patients in as safe as a way as possible. Your treatment may continue as planned or there may be some alterations which will be discussed with you. If for example, the risk of continuing is potentially higher than giving you a break from or delaying treatment, this may be recommended. Any decisions regarding your treatment will be made with you.
No. Please do not attend hospital or any health or care setting if you have any symptoms of coronavirus.
The main coronavirus symptoms are:
- a high temperature – this means you feel hot to touch on your chest or back (you do not need to measure your temperature)
- a new, continuous cough – this means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or 3 or more coughing episodes in 24 hours (if you usually have a cough, it may be worse than usual)
- a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste – this means you've noticed you cannot smell or taste anything, or things smell or taste different to normal
If you have any of the main symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19), get a test as soon as possible. Stay at home until you get the result. Book a coronavirus test here.
Coming into hospital
We are taking all precautions to ensure that our staff, patients and visitors are safe when in our hospitals or community settings, including:
- Following national guidance regarding self-isolation and testing for coronavirus before planned surgery. Appropriate PPE is available for colleagues in clinical areas
- Hand washing facilities, hand gel and face masks are available at all of the Trust’s main hospitals and community settings
- Cleaning schedules of public areas have been increased
- Relevant wards have been reviewed to ensure there is at least 2m between the beds to allow for social distancing
- Testing symptomatic staff and their family and also carrying out routine testing of staff in frontline roles showing no symptoms (asymptomatic)
We believe that these measures will help to significantly reduce the risk of transmission of coronavirus for staff and patients.
Please attend your hospital appointments unless you have coronavirus symptoms or are told to not attend by your clinican.
There will be limited availability of Patient Transport due to the requirement for social distancing. The situation will be assessed on an ongoing basis but in principle, patient transport will be available for those patients with a clinical need.
If you have a friend or relative in one of our hospitals and they are now well enough to go home, please come and get them. Once a patient is well-enough to leave, they are usually better off in their own home, amongst friends in familiar surroundings. This can make a huge difference for those other patients who are now sick and need a hospital bed.
Social distancing, masks and hand hygiene
All colleagues, patients and visitors are still expected to wear surgical face masks and adhere to social distancing.
Face masks and hand sanitiser are available at the entrances of each hospital.
Outpatients or visitors coming to the hospital will need to continue to wear face masks to reduce the risk of transmitting coronavirus to others. Evidence has shown that those infected with COVID-19 can have very mild or no respiratory symptoms (asymptomatic) and potentially transmit the virus to others without being aware of it.
For some, wearing of a face mask may be difficult, and therefore all other measures must also be considered and introduced e.g. social/physical distancing, timed appointments; being seen immediately and not kept in waiting rooms. Individual risk assessments should be undertaken where required; for example, patients with mental health and learning disabilities.
Face coverings worn as part of religious beliefs or cultural practice are acceptable, providing they are not loose and cover the mouth and nose.
No - we ask that all hospital visitors wear fluid repellent surgical face masks instead of any alternative face covering or home made mask. This is because of the level of protection that this mask gives to you and also to those around you.
Good practice is to take a clean mask on entering the building and then to discard your mask on exiting the building, it is vital that you complete hand hygiene as well.
There may be times whilst you are within the hospital that you are asked to change your mask as you make your way to different areas. This process ensures that we are not wearing one mask for too long and changes to masks prevent cross contamination from one area to another. Again, hand hygiene is vital and should also be undertaken at any time leaving or entering a new area within the hospital.
FFP3 masks are a requirement for staff to wear whilst undertaking Aerosol Generating Procedures (AGP) or working in the vicinity of an area where an AGP is occurring. This is in line with national Public Health England (PHE) guidance. In all other areas the guidance is that NHS staff should also wear a fluid repellent surgical face mask.
All surgical face masks are classified as either Type I, IR, II, IIR, and are medical devices provided by the hospital.
Face coverings can be cloth or homemade and should cover the nose and mouth of the wearer.
If an outpatient or visitor does not have a face mask when they come to hospital, one will be provided on arrival.
You should follow the NHS guidelines – wash your hands more often especially:
- when you get to work or arrive home
- after you blow your nose, cough or sneeze
- before you eat or handle food
You should wash your hands for 20 seconds, using soap and water or hand sanitiser.
We have worked to ensure that we can allow for social distancing wherever possible. This includes taking out some of the chairs in our waiting rooms to allow people to sit 2m apart from each other and ensuring there is 2 metres between hospitals beds on our wards.
We are asking everyone to stay to the left when walking through our hospitals and signage is in place to remind everyone.
Everyone attending one of our hospitals or community settings can play their part by keeping a safe distance from others wherever possible.
Infection prevention and control
Our Trust has sufficient PPE equipment for staff. There are fresh deliveries regularly and the Trust is working hard to keep sufficient stocks of all types of PPE including face masks, aprons, gloves and gowns.
Equipment will be cleaned in accordance with recommendations to ensure it is safe for patients. However, this may cause some delays as cleaning takes place.
Yes - we have increased and enhanced cleaning in all public areas including toilets, restaurants and entrances.
Patients with suspected or confirmed cases of coronavirus will be cared for in designated wards to allow other wards and departments to restart normal activities. Similarly, in our Emergency Departments, there are designated coronavirus and non-coronavirus areas to ensure the safety of everyone in the department.
Only authorised access is allowed to these areas and everyone is required to wear appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) at all times
Testing of symptomatic staff and family will continue as per current guidelines, as well as routine testing of asymptomatic (showing no symptoms) staff.
It is very important that we do all we can to protect our staff as well as patients. Latest government guidance states that all NHS staff should wear a surgical mask when in a hospital or community setting.
Depending on the reason you are being seen, they may wear other types of PPE such as gloves, aprons or FFP3 face masks.
Take a look at the easy-read leaflet about why we wear PPE.
For our patients who may be immune-supressed, extra planning and protection will be put in place. We will do everything we can to keep you safe and to provide you with information at all stages. We will also listen to your concerns and discuss them.
The steps we are actively taking to minimise the risks to our patients include:
- Provision of patient swabs prior to admission to ensure no patient undergoes surgery whilst carrying COVID, nor are they exposed to others
- Following national guidance regarding self-isolation and testing for coronavirus before planned surgery
If you or a loved one are going to care home or hospice after being in hospital you will be tested for coronavirus before you leave hospital. If the result of the test is positive, the care home will make arrangements to prevent the virus spreading to other residents or staff, following national guidance.
Getting medical help
If you need urgent medical help, use the NHS111 online service, or if you cannot get help online, call 111. The NHS111 call handler will ask you a series of questions to establish what your best course of action is. They may transfer you to, or arrange a call back from, a qualified clinician like a nurse, paramedic or GP for further advice, before referring you to the most appropriate service.
If you are told to go to hospital, it is important that you come. Our staff have worked hard to ensure that the care you need can be provided as safely as possible.
When arriving at the Emergency Department, you may notice some changes. These include:
- On arrival, you will be assessed for symptoms of coronavirus and identified as having no symptoms (asymptomatic), symptoms of coronavirus, or confirmed positive for coronavirus (if you have already been tested)
- If you are asymptomatic it is important that you can comply with normal social distancing requirements
- If you start to show symptoms of coronavirus or test positive while in hospital, you will be immediately isolated to ensure the safety of staff and other patients
- If you need to be admitted to hospital, you will be tested for coronavirus. If you are still in hospital five to seven days after admission you will be tested again
As always, in an emergency, you should call 999.
Our A&E's are open and our teams are ready to care for people who need their help. We know that there are patients who absolutely need to be seen in A&E, but we also see patients in the department who could be treated using a different healthcare service. That is why we ask the public to only attend A&E if they have a life-threatening emergency
An A&E department (also known as emergency department or casualty) deals with genuine life-threatening emergencies, such as:
- acute confused state and fits that are not stopping
- loss of consciousness
- chest pain
- breathing difficulties
- severe bleeding that cannot be stopped
- severe allergic reactions
- severe burns or scalds
- major trauma such as a road traffic accident
If you're not sure what to do
NHS 111 can help if you need urgent medical help or you're not sure what to do.
They will ask questions about your symptoms so you get the help you need.
If you need to go to A&E, NHS 111 will book an arrival time. This might mean you spend less time in A&E. This also helps with social distancing.
You can get help from NHS 111 online or call 111. It's available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
At the moment it can be hard to know what to do if you're unwell or have a concern about your health. All NHS services are very busy and you may have to wait longer than usual to speak to someone if it's not urgent.
It's important to:
- get medical help if you think you need it
- keep any appointments or procedures you have booked – unless you’re told not to go
- go to hospital if you’re advised to
If you need urgent medical help but it is not a life-threatening emergency, call NHS 111 or visit 111.nhs.uk where a trained advisor will direct you to the most appropriate service for your needs.
Your local pharmacy team can provide expert advice about over-the-counter medicines to treat many common health conditions, such as colds, aches and pains and tummy troubles, as well as advice on medication and services such as healthy living support. See the Pharmacy opening times over the New Year Bank Holiday.
The latest coronavirus guidance is available on the Government website. A booster dose of the COVID-19 vaccine helps improve the protection you have from your first 2 doses of the vaccine. Book your COVID-19 booster vaccination appointment.
If you start to show symptoms of coronavirus or test positive while admitted, you will be immediately isolated to ensure the safety of other patients and staff.
With some services reopening and more people returning to our sites, our car parks are becoming very busy, so we’ve taken the difficult decision to reinstate car parking charges.
The main restaurants are open on all our sites. Seats have been removed to help with social distancing and we ask all users to observe distancing guidelines.
The Royal Lancaster Infirmary restaurant is open 8:30am to 3pm and from 5:15pm to 7pm Monday to Friday and 08:30am to 2pm and from 5.15pm to 7pm on Saturdays and Sundays
Furness General Hospital is open from 8.30am -6pm Monday to Friday and from 8.30am to 5pm on Saturdays and Sundays
Westmorland General Hospital: 9.30am-1.30pm
The To Go café at Westmorland General Hospital is open from 11am to 1pm, and the To Go café at the Royal Lancaster Infirmary is open 8:15am to 6pm Monday to Friday and 9am to 6pm Saturday and Sunday.
The RVS cafes are open with reduced hours.
We have. A full list of the ward moves is available below:
Royal Lancaster Infirmary
- The Oncology Unit at the RLI has moved to Westmorland General Hospital (WGH)
- The Fracture Clinic at the RLI has moved to the Oncology Unit at the RLI
- The Minor Injuries Unit at the RLI has moved to the Fracture Clinic at the RLI
- The Gynaecology Assessment Unit (GAU) and Early Pregnancy Unit (EPU) Ward 16 at the RLI have moved to Ward 17 at the RLI
- The Clinical Investigations Unit at the RLI has moved to the Ophthalmology Unit at the RLI
- The Pleural Clinical at the RLI has moved to the Ophthalmology Unit at the RLI
- Ward 35 at the RLI has moved to the new RLI Medical Unit 1 Ward 4
- Children’s Ward 32 at the RLI will move to Ward 16 at the RLI on Saturday 4 April
- Ward 37 Respiratory (Higher care) at the RLI is planned to move to Ward 32 at the RLI on Sunday 5 April or Monday 6 April (to be confirmed)
- The Diabetes and Endocrinology Centre at the RLI will move to the Rheumatology at the RLI on Tuesday 7 April
Furness General Hospital
- The Ambulatory Care Unit FGH is expanding to include a COVID clean Emergency Department
- The Acute Medical Unit FGH will become an additional Intensive Care Unit (ICU)
- The Discharge to Assess Unit FGH will become an Acute Medical Unit
Yes – the Lloyds outpatient pharmacies in the hospitals are still open.
Please do not attend hospital or visit your GP or Pharmacy if you have symptoms of coronavirus, instead you must visit the NHS 111 website.
If you think you might have coronavirus, check if you need to self-isolate by using the NHS 111 online coronavirus service which is available at www.nhs.uk, if you can't access the Internet then please call NHS 111.