A PRIORITY assessment pod has been set up to assess potential cases of coronavirus at the Royal Hampshire County Hospital.

The area has been set up after NHS England ordered every hospital in the UK to create separate facilities to examine patients they believe to have the infectious disease.

NHS services across Winchester and the surrounding are “well prepared” to deal with new outbreaks, according to a statement by Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (HHFT).

A trust spokesperson said: “Following national guidance all hospitals are putting in place NHS 111 pods at their emergency departments, so that anyone attending hospital with symptoms of the virus can be kept isolated from other patients and avoid causing unnecessary pressure in emergency departments.

“Over the coming weeks many more of us may need to self-isolate at home for a period to reduce this virus's spread. Everyone can continue to play their part by taking simple steps such as washing hands to prevent the spread of infection and calling NHS 111 first before going to the doctors or emergency departments if they have any concerns about or show symptoms of coronavirus.”

The trust has confirmed that there has been no positive tests, but are unable to provides figures on how many have been carried out in the pod. 

It is believed each pod will need to be decontaminated each time it is used.

A letter from NHS England to trusts across the country said: "As part of managing care in emergency departments, trusts are being asked to organise a “Coronavirus Priority Assessment Pod”, which will mean people with symptoms indicative of infection will get quick assessment, while other patients also continue to get appropriate care."

The letter said the pod must have a phone which is available 24 hours a day so worried patients can speak to a specialist response team at any time.

There must also be clear signs and posters directing people the pod so they don't have to come into contact with staff – people will not be allowed to just wander into the pods but must be referred there first.

HHFT has said that the “risk to the general public is moderate”, but issued advised to those who have arrived back to the UK from mainland China, Thailand, Japan, Republic of Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia or Macau within 14 days.