A Bristol MP has called on the government to help ease pressures on the city’s healthcare system after it entered the highest stage of alert in the run-up to what could be ‘one of the toughest winters in NHS history’.
The ongoing impact of coronavirus, a growing backlog of patients waiting for care, increased demand and staff shortages has seen hospitals and clinics around the city reach what is known as Opel 4 - the highest escalation level.
MP for Bristol West, Thangam Debonnaire, said she had written to health and social care Secretary Sajid Javid, asking him to take urgent action.
It comes after 334 new Covid cases were confirmed in the city over the past 24 hours - meaning the infection rate for the city is 14,410 cases per 100,000 people, higher than the England average of 14,183.
While the number of people visiting A&E also increased last month at both North Bristol NHS Trust, which runs Southmead Hospital, and University Hospitals of Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Bristol Royal Infirmary.
Ms Debonnaire said: “With many aspects of life seem to be back to normal, it is easy to forget Covid is still killing hundreds and hospitalising many more every week.
“Our healthcare system in Bristol is under unprecedented pressure from Covid, flu, staff shortages and a huge backlog of life-saving treatments pushing every part of the health system.
“I’ve written today to the Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid to ask him to do everything possible to ease the situation urgently.
“This includes fixing the stalling Covid vaccination programme, resolving the immediate crisis in social care and recruiting desperately-needed staff.
The government must also get better at communicating public health messages.
“The Prime Minister and other ministers have often muddied the message on Covid, leaving the public confused and healthcare staff demoralised.”
This week 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, called on residents to ‘play their part’ when it came to easing pressure on the NHS.
Dr Peter Brindle, medical director for the Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group, said staff were facing their ‘most challenging period yet’.
He said hospitals had taken the ‘difficult decision’ to implement extra measures such as discharging patients as soon as they are medically well enough to leave hospital, even if its to an alternative community bed further from home.
He added: “At this stage, every hour counts.
“Together, we need to do everything we can to make sure people are supported in the right place.”
Ms Debbonaire added: “I know we are all grateful for the hard work and huge sacrifices made by Bristol’s NHS and care staff over the last couple of years.
“From my regular conversations with Bristol’s senior health officials, I hear staff are exhausted and working hard to cover staffing gaps, just as we go into one of the toughest winters in NHS history.
“They need our help and I’m calling on everyone to do their bit.”
Leaders say the coming weeks are likely to be ‘tough’ and are asking Bristol 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 grabajab.net.