Bristol hospitals on highest level alert as NHS staff in region face ‘most challenging period’ yet

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NHS staff in Bristol face a growing backlog of patients waiting for care and the ongoing impact of coronavirus

“The public can really help us here. At this stage, every hour counts.”

This is the message from health and care leaders in Bristol as medics struggle to cope with increased demand, growing backlogs of patients waiting for planned care and the ongoing impact of Covid-19.

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The system is now in its highest state of alert, known as Opel 4, reflecting the level of pressure being felt across NHS hospitals, GP practices, community and mental health services and social care.

Dr Peter Brindle, medical director for the Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group, said it was the ‘most challenging period’ staff had ever experienced.

Speaking on behalf of the Healthier Together partnership, which is made up of NHS hospital trusts, South Western Ambulance Trust, the CCG and all three local authorities in Bristol, he said: “Throughout this time, people’s safety remains our first priority.

“To focus our resources on those who most need them, we are taking difficult decisions – including moving people on from hospital as soon as they are medically well enough to be discharged – even if it’s to an alternative community bed further from home.

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Ambulances outside the Accident and Emergency department of the Bristol Royal Infirmary (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)Ambulances outside the Accident and Emergency department of the Bristol Royal Infirmary (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)
Ambulances outside the Accident and Emergency department of the Bristol Royal Infirmary (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images) | Getty Images

“The public can really help us here – by checking in on loved ones who might need extra support in the community, and by ensuring they’re ready to help out with discharge as soon as we call.

“At this stage, every hour counts. Together, we need to do everything we can to make sure people are supported in the right place.

“Your continuing support for loved ones at home will make all the difference this winter.”

The latest available data up to November 2 shows that the number of coronavirus patients being cared for by the North Bristol NHS Trust, which runs Southmead Hospital, more than doubled in the last four weeks - 77 patients, up from 35.

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While at University Hospitals Bristol and Weston Trust, which runs the Bristol Royal Infirmary, 60 coronavirus patients were being treated.

Leaders say the coming weeks are likely to be ‘tough’ and are residents to:

  • Think 111 for all urgent but non-life-threatening injuries or illnesses, rather than visiting busy emergency departments and minor injuries units.
  • Help look out for your community – check in on loved ones and neighbours who might need extra support, especially as winter approaches.
  • Protect yourself – get vaccinated against Covid-19 and flu. You can find all the details you need at

From this week (Monday, November 8), people being admitted to hospital in Bristol will be asked to plan their discharge with ward staff straight away, with efforts made to move people on as soon as they are medically well enough to leave hospital.

This step is being taken to ensure hospital beds are available for those who are most acutely unwell.

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Family and friends will be called on to help factilitate a timely discharge of their loved ones, and voluntary and community sector partners such as the Red Cross will support more people to return home or to another service in the community.

Nationally, the UK has recorded 262 coronavirus-related deaths and 33,117 cases in the last 24 hours.

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