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The unit, consisting totally of single-bedded rooms, is a major boost to the city’s health and social care response to Covid-19, and will also be the first clinical activity to be provided in the new Royal building.
Therapy, nursing and medical staff will help patients, most of whom will be older people, recover their independence by building up their mobility and their ability to undertake routine daily tasks before they are safely discharged.
The unit has been created in what will become the Acute Medical Unit for the new Royal.
Due to open in the week commencing Monday, 4 May, the unit will be able to care for up to 65 patients, with plans for 25 patients to be transferred initially during the first week.
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Steve Warburton, Chief Executive of Liverpool University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Our new step-down unit is an excellent additional resource to help our city give patients the best possible recovery and discharge.
“As part of our early pandemic planning, we considered the potential to make part of the Acute Medical Unit in the new Royal into an operational area. At that stage, we had to consider situations including overwhelming numbers of patients needing admission to our main hospitals.
“Thankfully, the vast majority of the region’s residents have stayed at home and supported social distancing, so we have flattened the curve of cases. Our incredible staff have had to work very hard, under great pressure, to care for many very sick patients, but we have never had to use our full capacity.
“That’s why we will now be able to use this unit to support patients in their recovery in single rooms, with benefits for them including greater peace and quiet.
“Our construction partners and suppliers have worked quickly to create this fantastic facility, but equally our staff have demonstrated their ingenuity and innovation to plan the way in which they’ll give our patients the best possible care. It’s an amazing achievement to have created this unit in such a short time, and we’re very grateful to everyone involved.”
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Suitable patients from the Royal Liverpool University Hospital or Aintree University Hospital will be transferred to the unit to support their recovery. Most of the patients will be older people, who will then be returning to nursing homes, care homes or their own home.
The new Royal unit will be supported by 130 staff, including physiotherapists and occupational therapists, plus healthcare assistants, nurses and doctors. The patients will all have very limited medical needs and will be focusing on regaining their independence. Hospital staff will work with social workers and community nurses from Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust.
Some patients will be transferred to the unit from the main Royal Liverpool University Hospital using a corridor which has been specially decorated by the Hospital Arts in Liverpool service with rainbows, which have come to signify hope and the country’s response to the pandemic.
Steve added: “This is certainly not a case of the whole new Royal opening early, but we do have the ability to expand the unit further if needed in the immediate future. We have a very flexible resource for our patients going forward, especially as we start to look at the resumption of services which we had to significantly reduce or stop in order to focus our efforts on caring for patients with Covid-19.
“At the same time, we have planned this so that we can safely continue with the construction of the new Royal, while still providing immediate benefits for our patients.”
Joe Rafferty, Chief Executive of Mersey Care NHS FT, said: “I am pleased that we have been able to collaborate with other health and social care colleagues in hospital and out-of-hospital services so quickly and efficiently. This helps us to support great care for those people who need support today and to also forge stronger new community services for Liverpool to avoid hospital admissions in the future. This can only benefit the people of Liverpool and beyond.”
Beth Weston, Chief Operating Officer of Liverpool University Hospitals NHS FT, and Trish Bennett, Executive Director of Nursing and Operations for Mersey Care NHS FT, who have led on this scheme, said: “Our teams have worked really well on delivering the operational plans to support the opening of this unit. It has been a great example of system and team working, with local patients being at the heart of our vision and plans.”
Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson said: “We have a really strong partnership among our health partners across the city which is really helping us deal with the challenge of coronavirus. I would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to the teams who have worked really hard to put this new facility together, and to the staff who will be caring for people when it is open. This is one of a range of measures being put in place to ease the pressure on our hospitals and look after people in safety and comfort until they are fit and well and free of infection.”
Paul McNerney, Director of UK Building at Laing O’Rourke said: “We are proud that our people have played a part in supporting the NHS’ response plan for COVID-19 by creating this unit within the new Royal. I’d like to thank the project team, our suppliers and partners who have worked incredibly hard over recent weeks, completely changing the way they work to ensure safe distancing on site whilst delivering increased healthcare capacity at this critical time for our extraordinary NHS healthcare workers in Liverpool. Working alongside a live hospital you cannot fail to see and be moved by the commitment of all those working in and with the NHS and it is to them that we give our most sincere thanks.”
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