Health and care services across Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent are facing unprecedented pressures due to the continued challenges of Covid-19.
As a result of staff absence across NHS services due to COVID-19 related issues and an increase in patients as well as general demand in urgent and emergency services University Hospitals of North Midlands has made the difficult decision to postpone some operations.
Prior to any cancellation, there is a rigorous clinical prioritisation process, and we would like to apologise to patients if they have experienced a delay in their treatment.
The temporary suspension will help to alleviate pressures at Stafford’s County Hospital and Royal Stoke University Hospital – both run by University Hospitals of the North Midlands NHS Trust (UHNM) - which is currently facing pressures that are more demanding than the most difficult winters. Prior to any cancellation, there is a rigorous clinical prioritisation process.
Similar pressures exist elsewhere in the county, caused by a combination of COVID-19, people who have delayed seeking help or had treatment delayed because of the pandemic, and general pressures associated with a population living with increasingly complex health needs.
Dr Steve Fawcett, a GP and the Clinical Lead for Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent’s Urgent and Emergency Care Board said: “This is similar to the types of problems we have in winter, but with COVID-19 thrown into the mix.
“We have to remember that COVID is still with us. Cases are higher in Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire than the national average, and all our clinical settings – from GP surgeries to major hospitals – still need to take COVID precautions, social distancing and strict use of PPE.
“We understand exactly why UHNM are taking the action they are. While it is something no-one would want to see it is probably essential given the current pressures.
“We also have more people seeking urgent and emergency care being admitted to our hospitals, and we face difficulties with people being well enough to be discharged from hospital, but are waiting for a place in a care setting.
“The other significant issue is that many people either delayed seeking help or had treatment delayed because of the pandemic, and they are now in worse health than they would have been as a result.”
And Dr Fawcett believes understanding these issues can help people play their part to help get through these issues.
He said: “We always ask people to seek help in the most appropriate place, whatever their condition. 111.nhs.uk is a really helpful tool to assist you to do this and you can access it from a smartphone.
“But the other thing I really hope everyone will understand is that people who are well enough to be discharged really should not be in a hospital bed.
“We need to discharge them to an appropriate care setting if they are not yet well enough to look after themselves, or home with support where needed. This may not initially be a perfect solution and there may be limited choice. However, they will be helped to find a longer-term solution of their choice. The NHS and our local authority colleagues are together working really hard on this.”
“The other crucial plea is that people must do everything they can to protect their own health. This includes getting their COVID-19 vaccinations and getting the flu jab at the earliest opportunity.
“We also need to remember that the general principals of hands, face, space and fresh air are still the best ways to keep ourselves protected from COVID-19 and other viruses.”