A year ago today (March 11), Salisbury District Hospital recorded its first coronavirus death.

It was a man in his 50s with underlying health conditions.

Since then, 206 more patients have sadly passed after testing positive for the virus.

The majority of those deaths took place during the second wave, which is now in its final stages.

In the past week, hospital staff have been reflecting on the challenges of the past 12 months.

But while Salisbury seems to be through the worst of the fight against coronavirus, “big challenges” remain on the horizon.

Arguably the biggest one will be clearing the backlog created by the delay of non-urgent surgery and procedures – a direct result of the pandemic.

'It won't be quick'

Andy Hyett, Chief Operating Officer at Salisbury NHS Foundation Trust, has warned that process will take some time.

He said: “We’re working up our plans now to clear the backlog of patients who have been waiting, it’s something we’re going to work up at pace but it won’t be quick.

“The reassuring thing is that patients have been clinically prioritised so those who need treatment at the highest priority have been treated but like anything, if you stop doing any work the backlog is going to take some time to clear and we also want to make sure that we’re doing it safely.”

From a Covid point of view, the job of medics is getting “easier” as the drop in cases and hospitalisations has meant that only 10 positive inpatients are currently on site compared to a peak of 188 in the second wave.

However, the focus will now shift to patients who had their treatments postponed.

'Bear with us'

“From the health service point of view the challenge is not over,” he said.

“For our hospital, we always had extremely good waiting times for procedures. This is now a challenge for us because we didn’t have long waiting times before.”

As staff work out how to best bring back services halted by the pandemic, Mr Hyett is asking members of the public to “be patient and please bear with us”.

He has thanked staff for continuing to run vital services, such as maternity, A&E and cancer surgery, throughout the crisis.

The way the hospital will operate moving forward will also be different to pre-Covid times as medics look to take on board a few positives of working in a pandemic.

Mr Hyett explained: “There are some things that we’ve done in the last 12 months which we can’t wait to go back to the way it was before like close contact with people but then there are also things that we’d like to embrace and one of them is technology.

“I used to drive to other hospitals for meetings and we now do that from our desks which has its negatives but also its positives because I don’t have to travel around the country anymore.

“Virtual outpatient clinics – for some patients they work much better so where they do work we’re going to continue with that.”

Salisbury NHS Foundation Trust is currently running the City Hall vaccination site.

Mr Hyett is inviting anyone who is eligible to come forward for their jab.

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