Public asked to help themselves and their local NHS by avoiding visits to hospitals and care homes if they have symptoms of cold and flu
As Somerset’s health and social care services feel the pressure from hundreds of sick elderly people being admitted to hospital over the Christmas and New Year, doctors are asking people with symptoms of cold or flu to avoid visiting sick relatives or friends in hospitals or care homes if they are experiencing symptoms of a cold or flu themselves.
The appeal comes after Somerset’s ambulance, hospital, and community health services, have experienced some of their highest ever levels of demand.
High numbers of frail elderly patients, brought affected by the complications of severe colds or flu have been arriving by ambulance at the county’s two district hospitals in Taunton and Yeovil throughout the Christmas and New Year period.
Numbers were so high on 2 January that the entire Somerset health system reached its highest level of demand, known as ‘OPEL 4’. (Operational Pressures Escalation Level)
Since then, the combined efforts of health, social care staff and the voluntary sector have successfully reduced the level of demand to a more manageable OPEL Level 3 today (8-1-18) . However, with the Met Office forecasting colder weather in the coming days, staying well and reducing the spread of the germs that cause common colds, coughs and sore throats is more important than ever.
Dr Ed Ford, a GP and Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group’s Chairman, explained:
“Every year the NHS plans for the extra demand that arises from common winter illness, but this year has seen a significantly higher number of elderly people being admitted to hospital suffering with illness caused from the complications of colds and flu. People can help themselves and the NHS by taking a few practical measures that will help them stay well this winter.
“Keeping warm and active is important, together with eating a hot meal every day and having plenty of hot drinks throughout the day. Seeking advice from your pharmacist, at the first sign of illness, and getting a few over-the-counter remedies, will help. If you need health advice or become ill after you GP surgery telephone NHS 111.”
Dr Ford Added: “Please don’t add to the pressure upon local health services by coming to Accident and Emergency Departments with only minor illness or ailments. The NHS 111 helpline can advise you what’s best for your needs.
“Please avoid visiting friends and relatives in hospitals or care homes if you have already symptoms of cold and flu. You risk spreading your cold to your loved one and the staff caring for them.
“I would like to express my sincere thanks for the exceptional effort and additional work carried out by all NHS staff, health professionals and care workers. We still have many weeks of winter weather ahead but with the collaboration of all parts of the local NHS and help from the public we can ensure people get the care they need.”
Last week, NHS England announced that some hospitals might have to postpone routine operations or patient appointments in order to help hospitals manage the exceptionally high demand.
In Somerset, individual patients will be personally contacted if their routine hospital treatment is to be postponed. All other patients should attend their hospital appointments as normal.