‘Very, very few’ new Covid-19 cases in Camden hospitals, while north London boroughs confirm they’re watching cases closely in case of ‘second wave’

Kate Slemeck

Kate Slemeck - Credit: Archant

Although coronavirus cases in north London remain low, with parts of the north of England back under stricter lockdown measures, organisations from hospitals and councils to mutual aid groups are planning for the future - and how best to prepare for any resurgence of the virus.

Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead on Sunday, March 22, 2020. Picture: André Langlois

Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead on Sunday, March 22, 2020. Picture: André Langlois - Credit: Archant

At a public meeting held by Healthwatch Camden, the Royal Free Hospital’s chief exec, Kate Slemeck, said the hospital “didn’t get everything right, but we have learned a lot from Covid”.

Meanwhile Camden, Barnet and Haringey councils have all committed to continuing to support the vulnerable in the coming weeks – and to working to monitor communities closely and work with them should a spike in coronavirus cases occur. All three authorities have local outbreak plans in place, but in the latest government statistics, new cases in the boroughs do exist.

As of August 2, in Camden the previous seven days had seen just six cases of positive tests, but in Haringey, there had been 16 and in Barnet 33.

The latter two authorities saw an increase in lab-confirmed cases in late July, with 21 reported in Barnet alone between the July 27 and 29.

Camden council leader Georgia Gould. Picture: PA/Lauren Hurley

Camden council leader Georgia Gould. Picture: PA/Lauren Hurley - Credit: PA/Lauren Hurley

At the meeting both Ms Slemeck and her counterpart at University College Hospital (UCLH), Marcel Levi, reassured patients that, as it stands, Covid-19 patients are few and far between in Camden hospitals, and thanked the public for their support.

Ms Slemeck said: “Our hospital is not full of Covid patients. We have very, very few, and we have very, very safe pathways into care. To reassure people, the hospital is a very different place to how it was a few weeks and months ago.”

Most Read

Both chief execs said it was vital patients come to hospital if they had appointments, but said increasing virtual consultations had been one key improvement seen during the Covid-19 crisis.

Considering how the busiest phase of the pandemic had gone, Mr Levi said he was keen to consider how visiting could be improved. The Royal Free boss agreed, calling the lack of visiting one of “the most challenging things during the Covid pandemic”.

She said: “We have become much better at communicating through iPads and being more flexible in the way we update families about care”.

She said the hospital was working hard to work out what the future would look like, and Covid had helped it “change our services and improve our collaborations”, all of which would be implemented in case of an uptick in Covid-19 cases.

She continued: “We have been through an intense experience over the past few months, something we would never have expected.” She said as much as hospitals, of course, had planned for pandemic-type events, the Royal Free was now much more aware of how it would have to work in the event of a resurgence. She thanked the hospital’s community for its patience and support.

Referring to visiting, the worries of the local community, and non-Covid-related health concerns, she added: “We do have concerns about what the winter’s going to be like, and how we are going to deal with these issues if Covid comes back.”

Mr Levi told an audience of more than 300 attendees that the pandemic had shown the NHS’s importance. He said: “This has all demonstrated how important our NHS is.” He called for the government to make sure it has the extra funding it needs to cope in future.

Asked about how Camden Council is preparing for any second wave, leader Cllr Georgia Gould said: “If we do see an increase in cases in Camden, we will work with our communities to explain the action we all need to take to keep people safe and prevent a second wave. We will be working closely with families, schools, our universities, businesses and others to ensure that residents get the help they need to follow any new guidance.”

The council has also put in place large-scale plans to work with the voluntary sector to look after vulnerable groups.

Cllr Sarah James, Haringey’s health chief, said the authority is following all public health guidance and working across the community to monitor cases. She added: “We are working with our partner agencies and other parts of the public health system, as part of our COVID-19 Outbreak Management Plan, to prevent and manage local outbreaks of COVID-19.

A Barnet Council spokesperson said the council has a local outbreak control plan in place, and is also working to raise awareness of safety procedures.