The NHS in Devon is warning Covid-19 admissions are adding to “severe pressure” on services.
Edward Oldfield www.devonlive.com
It says patients with the virus are one of a series of factors meaning all parts of the health system are “extremely busy”.
It is urging people to only go to their local emergency department in immediately life-threatening cases.
A statement said on Wednesday: “The NHS in Devon is under severe pressure at present due to several factors, meaning GP surgeries, hospitals, community health services, mental health services and social care are all extremely busy.
“High numbers of emergency attendances, combined with the need for some health and care staff, or their children, to self-isolate and the impact of Covid-19 admissions are affecting services.”
The warning comes after the Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital revealed on Tuesday it had gone into OPEL 4 status – its highest alert level – due to high demand and staff shortages.
The NHS Foundation Trust said that it was experiencing severe pressure across a range of services and both its acute and community hospitals.
In Plymouth, chief nurse Lenny Byrne urged people to book a vaccination as cases rose and there was “small but slowly rising number” of patients with Covid in Derriford Hospital.
Cases have been rising across the country, with the latest figures for Plymouth on Wednesday showing the highest number since January in the previous week.
During the week June 26 to July 2, there were 454 new cases confirmed in Plymouth, an increase on the previous week total of 218.
That is a rate of 173.2 per 100,000 people, below the current rate for England of 249.6 per 100,000 people.
In Devon, the 1,091 new cases meant a rate of 136 per 100,000, and in Torbay there were 296 new cases with a rate of just over 217.
Although cases are rising, the Government says vaccination has broken the link between cases, hospitalisations and deaths.
The latest figures for Covid-related deaths released on Tuesday showed none in Devon in the past three weeks. In the previous five weeks, there were only two Covid-related deaths in Devon and Cornwall.
Dr Shelagh McCormick of the NHS Devon Clinical Commissioning Group said: “The pandemic is not over yet and we need local people to choose the right service for their needs.
“Where it is not urgent, you can help NHS staff, who are under extreme pressure at the moment, by waiting for the right service.
“You can also continue to support the NHS by continuing to follow the Hands, Face, Space, Fresh Air advice.
“Maintaining high standards of hygiene and continuing with social distancing also helps combat the spread of other infectious illnesses like noroviruses which are circulating in the community.”
The statement said that although the number of people in hospital with Covid was relatively low, hospitals were extremely busy.
It said the reasons include:
- many staff are having to isolate and not come into work;
- some staff are having to stay at home to look after children who have been sent home to isolate;
- as care homes are experiencing the same problems affecting their staff, it can make it harder for hospitals to discharge patients into nursing and care homes;
- measures to keep people safe – infection prevention and control measures – mean we have reduced capacity in many areas. This means we can’t help as many people as we normally can so waits are longer and we can fit fewer people in our buildings;
- sustained high numbers of emergency attendances – including record attendances and higher than average ambulance arrivals;
- caring for Covid patients – although numbers are currently small, teams still have to manage with a reduced number of beds due to infection control measures;
- Some people are coming to ED when they shouldn’t be – other services are available to help them.
NHS Devon issued the following advice to people seeking help
Here’s what you can do to help – choose the right service for your needs, and if it’s not urgent, please be patient and wait to be seen in the right place.
Before contacting your GP, you can look up your symptoms online using the NHS App, the NHS website or 111 online and there may be steps you can take to help yourself before needing to contact a healthcare professional. Parents can download the Handiapp for information on childhood illnesses
You can also continue to support the NHS by seeking help when you need it from the most appropriate service. There are a range of options to get help in addition to your GP surgery:
Pharmacy: As lockdown eases, don’t forget your local pharmacist can provide health advice and help with minor illnesses like colds, rashes, sunburn, hay fever and diarrhoea. You don’t need an appointment and they can even provide you with the right medicines at the same time.
Mental Health: If you, or someone you know, is struggling with their mental wellbeing, our 24/7 mental health lines are available:
Devon and Torbay – 0808 196 8708
Plymouth – 0800 923 9323
111 First: Our NHS 111 service is available 24/7 to provide advice, treatment and care. Just ring 111 or visit 111.nhs.uk and the service will provide advice and refer you to another service if you need it. If you need to be seen in person, they can book you a time slot.
Minor injury units: Emergency Departments are for life-threatening emergencies. There is a network of minor injury units in Devon who can provide the treatment you need – often they’ll see you quicker, and closer to home.