We have all been concerned over the last week with the rising numbers of people across the country falling victim to the coronavirus. Nationally more than 5,000 people have died as a result of contracting COVID-19, with more than 70 deaths being recorded in Kent’s hospitals. Amongst these, we have lost some of the brave heroes who work for the NHS, including Aimee O’Rourke, a nurse in the Acute Medical Unit at Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother Hospital (QEQM) in Margate. We cannot thank enough all those who are working in our health service at this time, and we are grateful as well for all of those retired doctors and nurses who are returning to the NHS to support their former colleagues during the coronavirus crisis.
At the time of writing this column our Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, is receiving treatment for the coronavirus at the intensive care unit in St Thomas’s hospital in London. This is another battle that I know he will win, but as with all sufferers of this terrible virus, our thoughts and prayers are with him and his family, as he recovers and regains his health and strength.
Testing for the coronavirus is one of the most important tasks in our fight against it. By establishing who already has the antibodies to resist infection it allows NHS staff and other key workers to remain active and out of self-isolation. We currently test around ten thousand people a day for coronavirus and the Health Secretary Matt Hancock has pledged that this will increase to 100,000 by the end of April. To support this effort, in Kent our clinical commissioning group teams, representing the GP surgeries, are working to establish new ‘hot sites’ in each local area, which will work separately from the existing doctors’ practices. These hot sites will be the places people are directed to, after contacting the NHS 111 telephone service, if they believe they have the symptoms for the virus and require testing and examination. I hope that the details for the locations of these sites will soon be announced by our local NHS.
On Monday this week, the Folkestone Haven began its work, offering out of hours support for people over 18 years of age with mental health needs. This new service was to have started this week working from the Rainbow Centre building in Sandgate Road, where people would have been able to call in to receive face to face counselling and advice from trained mental health support workers. However, whilst the coronavirus restrictions remain in place it will operate as an online and telephone service during the same hours, which are 6pm to 11pm on weekdays, and 12pm to 11pm at weekends and on bank holidays. The Folkestone Haven will be open every day of the year, and you can get in touch on one of the following three numbers, 07827 533 871, 07827 533 887, or 07827 416 697.