Devon’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.
Pressures are being seen across the system, in mental health care, primary care (GPs) and adult social care as well as our acute hospital trusts.
Jo Beer, Chief Operating Officer at University Hospitals Plymouth, said: “We really need you to support us. Please only attend the Emergency Department if you have a life-threatening emergency. If you do not need emergency treatment, you will be redirected to a more appropriate service. This is because we need to prioritise our emergency services to those in greatest need.
“If you have a family member in hospital, we need you to pick them up and take them home as soon as they are ready to be discharged from hospital so that we can provide care to those awaiting a bed or treatment.
“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.”
There are other ways people can support services. These include:
- 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
Other causes of pressure include some people using ED 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 enhanced infection prevention and control measures that were implemented during the height of the pandemic have 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.