Non-urgent operations postponed and visitors barred as NHS battles Covid surge
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Non-urgent appointments and operations are being postponed and visitors banned on some wards in North Somerset hospitals in a bid to tackle the winter health crisis amid a surge in Covid patients.
Health bosses in in Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire (BNSSG) say they are stepping-up contingency plans to deal with the current wave of Covid-19, alongside intense winter pressures - including constructing a new Nightingale facility at Southmead Hospital, in Bristol.
The news comes just days after it emerged Weston General Hospital - and others across the area - had declared an internal critical incident in response to rising patient numbers and staff absences.
"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," said a spokesperson for the NHS Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group (BNSSG CCG).
"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. People affected will be notified directly if they are affected by the changes.
- 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.
- 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
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Peter Brindle, medical director at NHS Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said: “With Covid rates very high, we’re seeing a 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.”
He urged the public to:
- Protect yourself – get vaccinated against Covid-19 and flu. You can find all the details you need at 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. Pharmacies are open throughout the day, evening and on weekends and you can be seen without an appointment.
- Help look out for your community – 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. We all appreciate how families and friends are providing additional care for each other at this difficult time; and are thankful for the flexibility being shown in times services are received.
- Check the latest guidance on visiting loved ones at the health setting you are attending before you set off – increasing rates of Omicron mean that some settings have had to change their arrangements.