Highest state of alert declared as health and care services face ‘incredible pressure’

Health and care leaders in South Gloucestershire, Bristol and North Somerset have declared the highest state of alert – Opel 4 – because services are under “incredible” pressure.

They are issuing a fresh call to the public as continuing COVID-19 hospitalisations and ongoing workforce challenges are being felt across NHS hospitals, GP practices, community and mental health services and social care.

Local leaders are urging people to stay away from busy emergency departments and minor injury units unless absolutely necessary, with additional exceptional steps being taken to manage the situation.

From this week people being admitted to hospital will be asked to plan their discharge with ward staff straight away, with efforts made to move people on as soon as they are medically well enough to leave hospital – even if that’s to an appropriate place further from home. This step is being taken to ensure hospital beds are available for those who are most acutely unwell.

Family and friends will be called on to arrange timely discharge of their loved ones, and voluntary and community sector partners such as the Red Cross will support more people to return home or to another service in the community. Leaders say the coming weeks are likely to be just as tough and are urging the public to:

Think 111 First for all urgent but non-life-threatening injuries or illnesses.

Help look out for your community – checking in on loved ones and neighbours who might need extra support, especially as winter approaches.

Protect yourself – get vaccinated against COVID-19 and flu. You can find all the details you need at grabajab.net

Today Dr Peter Brindle, medical director for the Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “Workforce challenges, increased demand, the ongoing impact of COVID-19, and a growing backlog of people waiting for planned care make this the most challenging period we have ever experienced.

“Throughout this time, people’s safety remains our first priority. To focus our resources on those who most need them, we are taking difficult decisions – including moving people on from hospital as soon as they are medically well enough to be discharged – even if it’s to an alternative community bed further from home.

“The public can really help us here – by checking in on loved ones who might need extra support in the community, and by ensuring they’re ready to help out with discharge as soon as we call. At this stage, every hour counts. Together, we need to do everything we can to make sure people are supported in the right place.

“Your continuing support for loved ones at home will make all the difference this winter.”

The Healthier Together Partnership – formed of NHS Hospital Trusts, the Ambulance Trust, the Clinical Commissioning Group, all three local authorities and community, primary care and mental health services – has written to every member of health and social care staff, local councillors, MPs and community groups to share this message.

The Partnership is also launching more targeted drives on recruitment – particularly into the care sector – in the coming weeks.

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