West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust has explained the measures it will take to ensure that its hospitals are prepared for the increase of Covid-19 cases.

The trust will be undergoing a series of changes to keep up with the demands of Covid-19 treatment at Watford General, St Albans City and Hemel Hempstead hospitals.

This includes additional high dependency beds and isolation features at Watford General Hospital.

But hospitals in England have been told that non-urgent planned surgery, other than urgent and cancer cases, will be restricted, with some operations suspended for at least three months.

Non-urgent appointments at the hospitals will be postponed or cancelled.

Any patient who does not need to be cared for at the Watford General site, but is not ready to go home, will be moved to St Albans City Hospital as surgical wards are being converted for additional capacity.

Chief executive Christine Allen said: “As the chief medical officer has stated, NHS services are likely to come under intense pressure as the coronavirus spreads, and we need to ensure that we have as many beds available as possible to care for patients with severe respiratory problems when the number of infections peaks.

“Therefore, in line with well-established plans for situations like this, every hospital in England has now been asked to suspend all non-urgent elective operations for at least three months, with some other procedures likely to be rescheduled before then so we can train our staff and adapt certain areas.

“Urgent and emergency cases and cancer treatments will be carrying on as normal, but we know many people waiting for treatment will be disappointed or worried, and we will be contacting everyone affected as soon as possible.”

Ms Allen added: “Teams across the trust are doing a remarkable job and I want to say a special thank you to staff who are providing front line care whilst wearing full protective equipment. This is hard work and we are all very, very grateful to them and those who support them.

“We have planned and implemented a range of measures to put us on the front foot for dealing with COVID-19. This trust has often been praised for the strength of its emergency planning.

“The speed and calmness with which we have made these changes is testament to colleagues who work so hard all year round to ensure that we are always ready for the unexpected.

“We acknowledge that patients will wait longer or travel further for appointments and we regret that visits to inpatients may be limited or stopped altogether but we are sure that everyone understands that patient safety remains our number one priority.”

The trust previously said that some patients are asked not to come in for face-to-face appointments, as hospitals will carry out telephone appointments instead.

Patients at the hospital will be restricted to just one visitor per patient, with visits not lasting more than 30 minutes.

However, if patients are in isolation, the trust confirms that no visits can be made.

The trust also says they are “working closely” with system partners to reduce the length of time that patients remain in hospital once they no longer need hospital care.

With these changes in place, the trust hopes they can better manage an increase in actual or suspected cases of the virus.

As of 9am today (March 18), there are 50 cases of Covid-19 identified in Hertfordshire, this went up from 36 from yesterday.