Local health and care system steps up contingency plans

The health and social care system in Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire is stepping up contingency plans to deal with the current wave of COVID-19 alongside intense winter pressures.

The number of people being treated in hospital for COVID-19 has more than doubled in just two weeks and is expected to reach a peak in the weeks ahead, which is also increasing demand for social care support.

With increasing numbers of staff off sick or isolating, clinical leaders across all services are taking action to ensure the continuation of safe and effective care.

The local health and social care system remains at its highest state of alert with significant pressure on all services.

Actions being taken include:

  • Postponing a number of non-urgent appointments and procedures to prioritise treatment for the most important and urgent cases – in community settings, GP practices and acute hospitals.
  • Prioritising the most urgent community visits and asking some people to self-manage their conditions where they can.
  • Expanding the pulse oximetry at home service – an innovative development which allows for remote monitoring of people’s oxygen levels, relieving pressure on busy hospitals.
  • Temporarily moving some staff to support core services.
  • Temporarily suspending visiting in some ward settings to maintain the safety of patients and staff and limit the spread of infection. Each setting is different in how its wards and waiting areas are set up; and any changes will be based on clinical risk.
  • Starting construction of the temporary Nightingale COVID-19 surge hub in the grounds at Southmead Hospital, which could care for up to 100 patients if needed.
  • Redoubling efforts to vaccinate people, which is the proven best way to protect against serious illness.
  • Adult social care services are prioritising hospital discharges, so people living at home may have to wait for an assessment of their needs.
  • Social care is also being prioritised for people with no family or friend networks.

Peter Brindle, medical director at Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said: “With COVID rates very high, we’re seeing sharp increase in staff sickness and people needing hospital care. This means we’re extremely busy and taking additional steps to limit the spread of infection, keep people safe, and make sure we can provide the treatment that people need.

“We are urging everyone to get boosted now, use services wisely and support friends and family in hospital to be discharged promptly.

“Staff across health and social care are going to incredible lengths in the most challenging circumstances right now – we are asking the public to continue to treat them with kindness and respect.”

The public are asked to get vaccinated against COVID-19 and flu. You can find all the details at www.grabajab.net

Click or call 111 first for all urgent but non-life-threatening injuries or illnesses, rather than visiting busy emergency departments and minor injuries units. You can also call your GP in the day.

Use your local pharmacy – they can offer clinical advice and over-the-counter medicines for a range of minor illnesses, such as coughs, colds, sore throats, tummy trouble and aches and pains.

Check in on relatives and neighbours who might need extra support and be ready to collect loved ones from hospital as soon as they are medically well enough to leave.

Health leaders in Bath and North East Somerset, Swindon and Wiltshire have also issued an urgent appeal for people in the region to play their part and support their local hospitals during what has been described as an “extraordinarily difficult” start to 2022.

Those in charge of running hospitals and other health services have said people can really make a difference by helping loved ones who are well enough to leave hospital to recover at home or in another suitable care setting, meaning that hospital beds are freed up for those who really need them

People are also urged to only visit Accident and Emergency departments or calling 999 in the case of a genuine life-threatening emergency.

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