Health and care leaders in Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire are calling on public support to help manage pressures on services, as an increase in non-Covid demand coincides with staffing challenges and continued hospitalisations from the virus.
More than 70 people are being treated for Covid-19 in the area’s hospitals, with a number in intensive care. An increase in people seeking non-Covid support and the recent need for staff to self-isolate has stretched services further – after more than a year of managing the pandemic.
To help cope with these pressures – and ensure that those with the most urgent care needs get the right help first time – people are asked to Help Us Help You, by:
- Thinking twice about the right service for your needs, using 111 online and pharmacy for minor ailments.
- Only calling 999 in the event of a serious or life-threatening emergency.
- Prioritising your second vaccination, taking it up as soon as you are eligible.
- Supporting your loved ones home from hospital as soon as they are medically ready to be discharged.
- Being patient with staff in our health and care settings, where pressures are resulting in longer waits.
An increase in urgent care demand has significant knock-on effects in the wider health and care system. Health and care staff - including physiotherapists and community nurses - are being asked to work in different locations to help manage the surge, meaning that people may need to wait longer for routine services and outpatient appointments.
Rigorous infection prevention and control measures remain in place to protect the most vulnerable, meaning there are fewer hospital beds and less space in waiting areas than prior to the pandemic. Elective procedure cancellations are under continuous review, with difficult decisions being taken on a daily basis as the NHS strives to protect as much of people’s planned care as possible.
Dr Peter Brindle, Medical Director at Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group, said:
“We are facing a unique set of pressures this summer which are being felt across all health and social care services. Community case rates of coronavirus remain high in our area, and we have a challenging few weeks ahead of us as non-Covid demand continues to rise.
“The NHS is absolutely here for you, and people shouldn’t hold on to any symptoms they’re concerned about. However, we do need people to use services considerately and think about the best option for their needs before they set off. If you attend our emergency departments with a minor injury or illness, you’ll be redirected to a more appropriate service – so checking your options before you leave the house is going to save a lot of time.
“111 online and pharmacy are great first ports of call for minor ailments, and can offer a range of expert clinical advice to help you get the support you need – including onward referral if necessary.”
Cllr Mike Bell, deputy leader and executive member for health and care at North Somerset Council said:
“With the pressures that we’re seeing currently across the local health and care system it’s vital that we all play our part to make sure that those in greatest need get the right care when they need it. As a council we’re working closely with our NHS and health partners to ensure that patients leaving hospital move on to get the ongoing care they need either at home or in a care home.
“Families are hugely important for anyone being discharged from hospital and can really help by supporting their loved ones home as soon as possible. And we can all help by following the NHS advice, making sure that if we need health or medical advice that we’re using the right service for our needs.”
Chris Sivers, Director for Children, Adults and Health at South Gloucestershire Council, said:
“Due to a number of contributing factors, the entire health and care system is under considerable strain, and we are asking everyone to play their part to help us manage this pressure.
“Local authority social care departments have an important role in ensuring that those who need support when their NHS care ends, receive the right services at the right time, and the care needed for their continued recovery, and wherever possible, continued independence. We support more people in their own homes than in care homes and we work closely with NHS partners to ensure that if people need treatment or more care at home, this is arranged quickly so that people only go into hospital care if that is the right place for their treatment.
“Families can also help ease the pressures by supporting their loved ones home from hospital as soon as they are medically ready to be discharged, ensuring that they contact the right service for their requirements, and by being patient and considerate if they do experience any delays.”
Christina Gray, Director for Communities and Public Health at Bristol City Council, said: “It’s vital we all remember the virus has not gone away. Our local health services continue to be under immense pressure. This is largely due to the number of people needing treatment as a result of COVID-19, an increase of non-COVID support, tackling the backlog of non-COVID work and staff shortages. Staff shortages are currently impacted by those needing to self-isolate, as well as staff being on leave for a well-deserved break after an incredibly busy 18 months.
“We continue to work closely with health settings and staff at this challenging time. The Bristol City Council Discharge Team is working rigorously to support patients being medically discharged from hospital, to get people home safely and ease the pressure on services. I urge citizens to do their bit to support health staff and ensure people in urgent need of care get the right support, as soon as possible. Please use the right service for your needs and support loved ones home from hospital as soon as they are medically discharged.
“Getting both doses of your COVID-19 vaccine, taking regular lateral flow (rapid) tests and getting a PCR test if you develop symptoms of the virus are all still key actions that will help us drive down COVID-19 rates and recover from the pandemic.
“Thank you to everyone who has been playing their part in helping to keep everyone safe.”
A complete list of local support - including mental health helpline numbers, the HandiApp for parents, and the latest news on available coronavirus vaccination clinics - has been refreshed online to help people make informed decisions about their care. The webpage can be found on the Healthier Together website.