Hospital trusts and other NHS providers have been told to be aware that there may be an increase in patients self-presenting across the health and social care sector following the death of Queen Elizabeth II.
Guidance sent to chief executives of integrated care boards (ICBs), commissioning support units and other provider organisations, also warned that the Queen’s death may spark an increase in health services required by those serving in the armed forces.
“The organisation has a robust mechanism which will assess and refer patients as appropriate”
“The passing of the Queen, as former head of the armed forces, is of particular significance to the armed forces community and has the potential to trigger mental health issues within that community,” said the letter written by Sir David Sloman, chief operating officer at NHS England.
Organisations were also urged to “familiarise” themselves with referral pathways to the national mental health and wellbeing service for veterans – Op Courage.
More widely, the letter said “there may be an increase in self-presenters” across acute settings, primary care, social care, mental health teams and third sector organisations,“because of the death” of the Queen.
“The organisation has a robust mechanism which will assess and refer patients as appropriate,” it added, referring to the NHS in England as a whole.
In addition, it explained that individual organisations would “amend services as they deem necessary” on Monday 19 September, the day of the Queen’s funeral, which has been declared a bank holiday.
The letter said patients with planned appointments for the day of the funeral should be told directly if the appointment was being changed or cancelled, while patients whose appointments were going ahead on that day should be sent a confirmation.
In a separate letter to primary care networks, GP practices, and other primary care providers, Dr Ursula Montgomery, director of primary care at NHS England, said that GP practices would be contractually able to close for the day, because it was now a bank holiday.
But she added that ICBs should work “urgently” to ensure sufficient out-of-hours integrated urgent care services capacity was in place during what would have been core hours for providers.
Dr Montgomery also asked that scheduled care home Covid-19 vaccination visits be delivered as planned on 19 September.
She stated: “We strongly encourage any clinics scheduled on that day to be maintained, particularly where there is a high population need. Providers should discuss with their local commissioner any need to flex or condense hours to support providers.”
Meanwhile, in Wales, a government spokesperson said it had “written to all NHS organisations in Wales to outline our expectation that services run in line with normal bank holiday arrangements”.
This included “ensuring urgent and emergency services are maintained and where workforce allows, continue with planned care services with a particular focus on cancer and clinically urgent procedures”.
“We are also asking organisations to ensure staff, patients, and the public are made aware of any changes to services,” the spokesperson added.
Tributes have been pouring in from across the nursing profession for the Queen since her death was announced on 8 September.
She has been remembered, in particular, for the way in which she “tirelessly championed nurses and nursing issues”.