OVER 150 nurses from across Hampshire have been given special training in preparation for anticipated increases in coronavirus cases over the winter, the hospital trust has revealed.

The nurses have graduated from a "critical care academy", a training programme set up at the start of the pandemic by Hampshire Hospitals NHS Trust, to enhance their skills and prepare them to support the intensive care teams.

The two-week course consists of classroom and simulation training, before completing a number of shadow shifts on the trust’s two intensive care units in Basingstoke and Winchester, where they work alongside an experienced member of the team.

Vicky Taylor, critical care matron, said: “Working in critical care for the first time can be a daunting experience. The academy provides our nurses with an opportunity to familiarise themselves with a new clinical environment so if they are asked to support critical care in the event of an increase in the number of patients, they have the confidence to do so - which also means our patients receive the best possible care.

“It is also a fantastic development opportunity, and means our nurses have enhanced skills they can take back to their wards.”

Hampshire Hospitals says the academy is one of the ways it is getting ready for a possible increase in the number of people with COVID-19 who need hospital care, combined with preparing for winter.

Julie Dawes, chief nurse at Hampshire Hospitals, said: “We have learnt a lot over the last few months, and our focus is now on being as prepared as possible for whatever may come our way and continuing to provide the best possible care to our patients either with or without COVID-19.

“Every member of our team has gone above and beyond and we know that we have an exceptional team who are ready to tackle any challenge head on as we look towards a busy winter period.

“As ever, we are here for those who need us. Our hospitals remain safe, and anyone who needs urgent or emergency care, or has an existing appointment with us, should continue to visit our hospitals.”

It comes after new data revealed the backlog of patients waiting for non-urgent procedures at Hampshire Hospitals was at the highest it has been since the start of the pandemic, with 50 per cent of patients at the end of July having waited longer than the 18 week limit set by the NHS.

The trust is asking communities in Hampshire to do their bit to support their local hospitals by continuing to follow national guidance to keep each other safe through regularly washing their hands, wearing a mask and keeping a safe distance from others.