Health care chiefs in Leeds have drawn up plans that could see staffing increased at hospitals and non-urgent operations postponed, as Yorkshire prepares to host the biggest event in its history.
Leeds Teaching Hospitals Trust has revealed that the extensive road closures on July 5 remain its biggest challenge, as it joins 11 other hospitals across the region in planning for the Tour de France Grand Depart.
The Leeds to Harrogate stage one race on July 5 and York to Sheffield stage two race the following day will cause blanket road closures in and around the routes and bring an estimated 3m visitors to the county.
Elaine Wyllie, director of operations and delivery at NHS England (West Yorkshire), has revealed special measures such as admitting some high-risk pregnant women to hospital for the weekend and giving extra support to patients with existing needs for treatment like chemotherapy or kidney dialysis as the health service prepares for Le Tour.
The news comes after the Yorkshire Ambulance Service Trust claimed staff could work up to 7,000hours over the Tour weekend, and the Yorkshire Air Ambulance stated it was making special preparations for the landmark event.
Mrs Wyllie told the YEP: “We are as prepared as we can be. As well as planning for this event we need to manage our normal business.”
She maintained that despite the announced road closures, which will impact rural villages as well as urban centres, “Yorkshire will not be landlocked for two days” as ambulance staff will be able to cross the route at 60 access points while in “blue light” emergencies the race could even be “paused”.
Plans have been drawn up over months of multi-agency meetings which cover NHS area teams for West Yorkshire, North Yorkshire and South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw, and will continue to be tested and refined until race day.
Mrs Wyllie said: “It’s part of the trusts’ responsibility to work within its financial plans and that will be what they need to do. There is always pressure we have to increase staffing and adjust staffing routines and this should be no different. We have an NHS that needs to respond all the time and that’s what we expect to deliver.”
A Leeds Teaching Hospitals Trust spokesman said as plans continue to be developed it is too early to answer questions about overtime, staffing bills or the postponement of non-urgent procedures.
Guidance issued to Leeds staff does signal “extra capacity” may be catered for at its hospitals, while non-urgent operations may have to be postponed. The trust will coordinate activities during the Grand Depart through a response team stationed at Leeds General Infirmary.
The spokesman added: “We have a huge amount of planning work which has been ongoing for some time. The road closures are the key issue for us and our biggest challenge is ensuring staff can get to or from work.”
As the only hospital to witness the Tour’s passing twice, the centrally-located Harrogate District Hospital, near the stage one finish line, has announced it will require extra staffing over the Tour weekend and that no non-urgent operations have been scheduled.
It is understood that a number of hospitals across the county have adjusted shift patterns to accommodate staff on site overnight, while workers are being urged to walk to work where possible.