I have to say that despite the wonderful weather, this week has felt like January here at Blackpool Teaching Hospitals.
I know that will seem strange with the warm and sunny days and nights and the unusual balmy temperatures so, please, let me explain.
I have spoken before about how the winter months are relentless and challenging for everyone in the NHS. This is particularly true for those of us who work in local hospitals. I know January is a generically miserable month for a lot of people – but for us those post-Christmas blues are compounded with some of the busiest days and nights of the year.
We are predictably very busy each year by people seeking treatment and support for bad bouts of ‘flu or other seasonal illnesses. Our own staff can be poorly or have kids or family who are ill and need extra support. The days are dark, wet, windy and often icy causing accidents and injury or our roads. People slip, trip and fall as pavements and pathways start to freeze. Older people sometimes become isolated in their homes which can affect their physical and mental health. The most vulnerable in our communities suffer from the cold because they can’t afford to put their heating on or they take risks with candles to warm up and cause devastating fires.
January is challenging and difficult and dark.
Other than the dark it has felt this way this week and this is largely down to three things that are colliding to make conditions very difficult indeed.
The first is that the Trust continues to respond to the latest rise in community infections from the Delta variant and other mutations of Covid-19. We have seen a rise in people coming to hospital for treatment and admitted a number of people.
New travel and social distancing guidance announced by the Government mid-week for a number of areas including Lancashire, along with a strengthened package of support designed to reduce the spread of the virus, really is most welcome.
The help follows the successful activity carried out in Bolton to reduce infection numbers there and includes support from the army and other partners, who will carry out increased in schools and the community, as well as getting out to talk to people and especially those considered disadvantaged or particularly at risk of being affected by Covid.
These conversations will include the important of getting your vaccine – whether it’s a first or second dose. We continue to vaccinate as many people as possible and for the latest age groups called forward please click here. If you’re over 18 you could be eligible. Find out more here and book your test in at a variety of places here.
Local residents are being encouraged to help reduce the spread of the virus and particularly the Delta variant. You can do this by:
- Continuing to meet outdoors rather than inviting people into your home
- Remaining two metres apart
- Don’t travel in and out of the area unless you have to
You can see the official guidance on the gov.uk website.
We continue to monitor the flow of people in and out of our settings, including patients and their families but also staff. If people don’t need to come into hospital – my advice is please don’t. We have reintroduced visiting arrangements and will do everything we can to keep you in touch with your loved one whilst in hospital – but these will be under constant review and our first priority is to keep people safe.
Please, do continue to be aware of the virus. It has not gone away and we continue to be within a geographical area which is seeing higher infection rates than other places.
In addition, the Trust continues to be challenged every day by very high numbers of people coming into the emergency department or A&E as you may know it better or our urgent care centre.
Latest figures show very high volumes of people are coming into A&E every day in May. All hospitals across Lancashire and South Cumbria – in fact nationally – are experiencing high volumes of people in A&E. We are working together to help manage this demand and ensure people are able to access the emergency treatment they need quickly and effectively.
We are working with colleagues right across the system to raise these issues on social and other media, reiterating that A&E remains open for life threatening conditions but suggesting alternative settings and pathways for people who may be more effectively treated somewhere else. If you see these, please do share and help us reduce the number of people waiting to be seen every day.
If you don’t have a life-threatening illness or injury, please do consider another way to get help. This could be from a GP, practice nurse at your local surgery, a community pharmacy or by ringing or going online to NHS 111.
Remember, if you are at A&E when you don’t really need to be you are increasing the wait and potentially preventing the team from seeing someone who really does need immediate help.
Lastly, I want to talk about our ‘accelerated restoration’ programme activity. This is a Government pilot in around 10 areas of the UK where NHS organisations are working with the wider health and social care system to get our services back up and running. In fact, we’re trying to supercharge them to 120% of the activity we would normally do to get as many people waiting for treatment into hospital to be seen.
This is no mean feat when you are experiencing more Covid positive patients and a very busy A&E department and the determination and dedication of all our staff who are achieving this is not to be underestimated. People are tired – nay exhausted – and really struggling mentally and physically with these demands.
I want to put on record my thanks and admiration for everyone who is pulling together day in day out to help as many people as possible.
It’s not easy – but every extra patient seen as part of our restoration programme is another person whose quality of life is improved and for us that will always be worth it.
Please, do everything you can to help us. Get your vaccine, respect the restrictions and if you don’t really need to come to A&E, please don’t.
I have said many times before that we will get through this together and I still firmly believe that. And whilst it feels like January for the Trust, please do enjoy the warm weather with your families and hope for much better days to come.
Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust