NHS in Devon is under ‘significant strain’ due to heavy demand

Devon’s health and care system is under “extreme pressure” and the public is being asked to find ways not to overburden it.

Carl Eve www.devonlive.com 

A statement released by the NHS Devon Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) has highlighted the medical groups serious concerns about the current situation.

The Devon CCG – which acts as the headquarters for the NHS in the county and has a budget of more than £1.9 billion – has said that the county’s “health and social care system is under extreme pressure due to high demand for services, sustained demand for Covid beds, pressure on staffing and the need for social care exceeding the available capacity.”

The group said the pressures are being seen across the system, in mental health care, primary care (GPs) and adult social care as well as the acute hospital trusts.

Dr Paul Johnson, Chair of NHS Devon Clinical Commissioning Group said: “The NHS throughout Devon is under a significant strain at the moment because there’s a large number of people who are needing emergency care, there’s a large number of people who are in hospital who are waiting to get home, but they need carers in order to support them to get home and we haven’t got those carers available.

NHS Devon issue advice to help them cope with "extreme pressure"

NHS Devon issue advice to help them cope with “extreme pressure” (Image: NHS Devon Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG))

“This means that the amount of beds and the amount of staff that we’ve got available to look after them in hospital is really limited and that means those people coming into hospital in need of care are struggling to be seen in a timely way and then we’re struggling to get them if they need to stay in hospital into a ward and onto a bed, where we can get them the care and the investigations that they need.

“So, our ask to you is really two-fold. Firstly, if you need emergency care, then just go to the right place for that care.

“Now, sometimes it would be the emergency department and you’ve absolutely got to go there.

“But other times it could be your pharmacist, your GP, or to go 111, either by dialling that or going online and getting help in a different way.

“Secondly, if you are in hospital, or you’ve got a relative in hospital who is looking to get home, just think about how quickly can you on the day they’re due to get home, get in and pick them up because the sooner they’re home, the sooner we can make a bed available for someone who’s been waiting – potentially – for several hours in the emergency department.

“Also, if they are waiting for carers to be available for them to get home, is there any way that either friends or family or relatives can support them at home, even if there’s something that we need to do to help make that possible?

“If that’s the case, then talk to your teams on the ward and we will do everything we can to get people out of hospital so that those who need those beds and that medical care can then get through the emergency department and get the treatment they need.”

Dr Johnson said the NHS in Devon “really need you (the public) to support us.”

He said: “Please ask yourself whether you have a genuine life-threatening emergency before attending an emergency department (ED).

“If you are not in the right place, you may be redirected to a more appropriate service. This is because we need to safely prioritise those with the most urgent need.

“Finally, we are seeing high numbers of children coming to hospital. There is a really useful HANDi paediatric app for advice on common childhood illnesses and when to seek help.”

The group have highlighted a number of ways the public can assist in supporting the hard-pressed services, including:

* Using your local pharmacist for minor conditions such as insect bites, ear ache and skin rashes.

* Using NHS 111 – online or by phone if you need advice or medical treatment quickly and can’t wait to see your GP. If you need to be seen by a Minor Injuries or Emergency Department they can book you in.

* Getting vaccinated against Covid-19. Have both jabs and your booster if you are eligible

* Staying away from hospitals if you have Covid symptoms, or diarrhoea and vomiting

The Devon CCG said other causes of pressure include some people using the emergency departments “inappropriately”, high numbers of staff off-work due to Covid or other reasons and a high number of vacancies in the current competitive jobs market.

The group added: “The enhanced infection prevention and control measures that were implemented during the height of the pandemic has been reduced to some extent, but are still higher than before the pandemic and mean we can treat fewer people in the same time period than in normal times.

“The NHS is working hard to address pressures across the system by promoting the most appropriate places to seek medical help, vaccinating people against Covid-19 and through staff working long hours and extra shifts.

“Longer term measures include recruiting more staff and creating extra capacity with new theatres and diagnostic facilities in Plymouth and at the former NHS Nightingale hospital in Exeter.”

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