HEREFORD County Hospital has set up "priority assessment pods" for people with suspected coronavirus.

The pods, which are designed to keep people suspected to have the virus away from other patients, have been spotted at many UK hospitals over the last few days, including at Hereford.

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Signs have been put up at the Wye Valley NHS Trust site directing people to the newly commissioned pods, which are near the hospital's accident and emergency department.

Ledbury Reporter:

Signs have been put up to direct patients to the assessment pods.

A spokesperson from Wye Valley NHS Trust said they were unable to comment on the assessment area, where a number of small Portakabin-type buildings have been set up and surrounded by temporary fencing.

A letter from Professor Keith Willett, NHS strategic incident director for coronavirus, said the pod plans were needed to avoid a "surge in emergency departments due to coronavirus".

Patients who think they have symptoms will be directed to a pod away from A&E, from where they can call specialist NHS 111 teams on a dedicated phone.

An assessment will be made by NHS 111 and A&E staff told of the patient's location if further testing is deemed necessary.

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The idea is to keep people isolated and away from other patients until an assessment is made.

Ledbury Reporter:

Hereford County Hospital's pods have been sited near the ambulance parking bays, some distance from the hospital's main entrance. This image from last year shows the site before the pods were installed.

The letter, revealed by The Independent newspaper, says the pods will then need to be decontaminated each time they are used.

It warns that emergency departments must prepare for a bigger influx of patients.

The letter, seen by the PA news agency, also instructs all chief executives and medical directors to have the pods up and running no later than Friday, February 7.

An NHS spokesperson said: "Anyone returning from Hubei province in the last 14 days should stay indoors, avoid contact with other people and call NHS 111 whether or not they are showing symptoms.

"Anyone with a cough, fever, or shortness of breath who attends hospital and has recently returned from China, will be advised to follow signs to NHS 111 pods and call for advice, so they stay isolated from other patients and avoid causing unnecessary pressure in A&E."