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Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent health and care system under extreme pressure

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As Coronavirus cases continue to sharply rise, health and care organisations across Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent are predicting a difficult January. Hospitals, and other health and care services, are already facing extreme pressures, with COVID-19 cases not expecting to peak locally for another few weeks.

The Omicron variant has led to an increase in people being admitted into hospitals, delays in people being discharged and staff absences on top of our usual winter pressures. In response, University Hospitals of North Midlands NHS Trust (UHNM) are declaring a critical incident, having to cancel further non-urgent operations and outpatient appointments. 

Tracy Bullock, UHNM Chief Executive, said: “We are currently experiencing extremely high demand for all our services and have taken the decision to declare a critical incident. This allows us to be able to take additional steps to maintain safe services for our patients. We are working with our local health and social care partners to help us cope with the growing pressures due to demand and the effect of Covid related staff absences.

“Unfortunately, this does mean postponing some non-urgent operations and outpatient appointments to accommodate those patients with the most urgent clinical need and we will contact patients directly to rearrange appointments. We are also using tried and tested business continuity processes to deploy staff to priority areas with high levels of absence and thank all colleagues for their flexibility and commitment.

“The public can help us manage these periods of demand by ensuring they are seeking help from the most appropriate health services, and only attending A&E for serious accidents and emergencies. If you are unwell, visit NHS 111 online for 24/7 advice about the most appropriate care for your need.”

UHNM’s announcement comes after the Staffordshire Local Resilience Forum yesterday (Thursday 08 January) declared a major incident to make sure that organisations are able to share resources where necessary, which will be important as we expect that more staff may need to self-isolate.

Peter Axon, interim Chief Executive of the Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent Integrated Care System, said: "This isn’t the usual winter pressures we see in the NHS and care sectors, Omicron is causing much more demand for every part of the system, from 111 and GPs to hospitals, you may also experience disruption to community services, with appointments and home visits being re-scheduled.

"Staff in all parts of our health and care system are doing their bit, just one example is in health where corporate staff are being redeployed onto the front line, where appropriate, to make sure care is still provided for those most in need.”

Abi Brown, Leader of Stoke-on-Trent City Council said: “We are working hard to support our partners at this challenging time and to prioritise care for people across Stoke-on-Trent. This includes staff volunteering to help where most needed, ensuring support in care homes and working to support people in their own homes to try and ease pressure across the system.  

“We are keen that people can understand what they can do to help. This means having an awareness of the current situation and seeking support in the right ways so that collectively we can help to ease the pressures on all parts of the health and care system as soon as we possibly can. Examples of this could include relatives providing support to their family on a short-term basis or people helping their friends and neighbours who may be vulnerable. The next couple of weeks are particularly critical and everyone can play their part.”

Alan White, Leader of Staffordshire County Council, said: “The priority for all partners is to ensure that people most in need of urgent care receive this whether in hospital, in care homes and or in their own homes. This will unfortunately mean some delays in less urgent cases. 

“We are also working with our own organisations to rapidly deploy staff to continue to support the critical roles and would also appeal to members of the public to do everything can to help reduce the risk and help ease the current pressures as swiftly as possible.”

Your NHS is still here for you, the best ways you can help us to help you are by: 

  • getting your COVID-19 vaccine and booster jabs if you haven't already as we know that many of those in hospital are not fully vaccinated
  • visiting NHS 111 online - https://111.nhs.uk/ - instead of calling 111, if you can, for 24/7 advice about the most appropriate care for your needs as calls to 111 are hig
  • working with hospital staff if you have a family member in hospital at the moment, to make sure they can be discharged as soon as medically possible.

Up-to-date details and times for all Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent COVID-19 vaccination walk-in clinics can be found on the Together We’re Better website. Vaccinations can also be booked through the National Booking System or by calling 119.