NHS masterplan to cope with 3m Tour de France visitors revealed

Staffing will be increased at Yorkshire’s NHS hospitals and operations postponed as the county prepares to host the biggest event in its history this summer.

Cycol Rendezvous Tour guest riders descend off Buttertubs Pass during a preview of the first stage of the 2014 Tour de France. Picture by Bruce Rollinson

Hospital trusts across Yorkshire are drawing together plans in preparation for the Tour de France Grand Depart on July 5 and 6, which will cause minimum eight-hour road closures 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 July.

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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 Le Tour.

Mrs Wyllie told the Yorkshire Post: “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 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 and in “blue light” emergencies the race could 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.”

As the only hospital to witness the Tour twice, the centrally-located Harrogate District Hospital, near the stage one finish line, will require extra staffing over the Tour weekend and no non-urgent operations have been scheduled.

While stating that discussions are ongoing with commissioners about any additional funding that may be needed, a spokesman for Harrogate and District NHS Foundation Trust said: “We would urge people to plan ahead as we expect a lot of extra people to be in the town over the weekend and it may not be possible to easily access routine services.”

Leeds hospitals have also been planning, as the July 5 stage one race sets off less than a mile away from Leeds General Infirmary.

A Leeds Teaching Hospitals Trust spokesman said: “The road closures are the key issue for us and our biggest challenge is ensuring staff can get to or from work.”

He said it is too early for details on overtime, staffing bills or the postponement of non-urgent procedures, although a huge amount of planning has been undertaken. Guidance issued to Leeds staff signals “extra capacity” may be catered for at its hospitals, while non-urgent operations may be postponed.

Hospitals across the county have adjusted shift patterns to accommodate staff on site overnight, while staff are being urged to walk to work where possible.

During Le Tour the NHS is advising patients to seek appropriate services. Patients can call 111 for advice or 999 in emergencies.

Almost 200 cyclists will ride from Leeds to Harrogate on July 5, and York to Sheffield on July 6, when the Tour de France debuts in Yorkshire. Hundreds of police officers will join up to 4,000 accredited stewards and some of the 12,000 Tour Makers to ensure each of the stages runs well.