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.”
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.”
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 at: https://bnssghealthiertogether.org.uk/localresources/