Patients and the public should be reassured that hospitals, GP surgeries, pharmacies, the ambulance service, community health services, social care services and charities across Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire are working together to manage the winter pressure experienced since the Christmas period.
This winter has already been particularly challenging but the NHS has plans to manage the extra demand, including extending postponing some non-urgent inpatient care, day-case procedures and routine outpatients until 31 January. This follows the national announcement made by NHS England and will free up capacity so care can be prioritised for the most poorly patients. We are currently working through the NHS England advice and are assessing how many appointments and operations may need to be cancelled. However, patients should attend planned operations and appointments as normal unless they are contacted directly.
Speaking on behalf of the Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire CCGs, clinical lead for urgent care Dr Peter Goyder said:
“I would like to reassure people that the partners around the NHS system are working together to do everything we can to free up bed space and we have had a plan in place for many months to deal with the current pressure. The plans include deferring some non-emergency and outpatient appointments and those patients affected will be contacted in advance. However, patients with planned operations and appointments should attend as normal unless we contact them. Taking action like this and working as a whole health service will enable us to alleviate pressure points.”
Dr Goyder added:
“We would like to thank the public for continuing to use NHS Choices, their local pharmacist, their family GP or calling NHS 111, so that A&E and 999 services can be available to those most in need. The public can also play their part in helping us to manage the pressures we face and we are making a plea for their help by ensuring they prepare for relatives and friends to leave hospital as quickly as possible, for example by collecting them if they are ready to return home. In some cases patients may need to be cared for in a location which is not their first choice and again we ask for the public’s support with this. Doing this will mean our hospitals are only being used to treat those who need the care most. Helping to discharge people who could receive care at home will ensure we can free up beds to care for those who require treatment that can only be given in a hospital. People can also help by taking a few simple steps to keep themselves well and use the most appropriate service when they get ill. It’s not too late to get a flu jab.”
Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire (BNSSG) is currently declaring an ‘OPEL four’ status which means that the system is experiencing the highest level of demand. BNSSG has already acted locally on the guidance from the National Emergency Pressures Panel and a number of the recommendations including those described above are already in place. BNSSG will continue to act appropriately in response to the detailed guidance.
In the meantime, there are some steps the public can take to help the NHS improve the current position. When it gets colder, frail and vulnerable people get more sick, which leads to flu, diarrhoea and vomiting bugs, and other respiratory problems. Patients are more likely to get admitted which has a much greater impact on hospitals. There are things people can do to prevent this happening:
• Vaccinate yourself and your family, particularly those in at-risk groups, against flu, which hospitalises thousands of people a year
• Get advice from a pharmacist as soon as you feel unwell with a cough or cold, before it gets too serious
• Alternatively if you are ill and feel you need some advice call the non-emergency NHS 111 helpline which can advise you on the best service for your needs
• Keep as warm as you can and if possible maintain rooms at least 18°c
• Plan ahead and order any necessary repeat prescriptions in good time
• Plan ahead and stock up your medicine cabinet with pain killers and cough and cold remedies in case of illness.