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Health and care leaders tackle COVID-19 pressures together

21 January 2021

Update from Cumbria Local Resilience Forum

Health and care leaders across the County are working together every day to manage the current pressures on their services due to COVID.

The first week in January was Cumbria’s worst week for new COVID-19 infections with 3,499 across the County, which has brought extraordinary pressure on health and care services that has never been experienced before. 

 As well as a tripling of people needing hospital treatment for COVID-19 in the last three weeks, the very high level of infection in our community is also having an impact on staffing in all sectors because of people having to self-isolate.

 In Cumbria, health and care leaders from North Cumbria Integrated Care NHS Foundation Trust, University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust, Cumbria County Council, North West Ambulance Service, NHS North Cumbria Clinical Commissioning Group, Morecambe Bay Clinical Commissioning Group, and Primary Care colleagues are meeting daily to monitor the impact on different sectors, respond to the demand for services and prioritise care for the most the vulnerable people in our communities.

 This has included joint working between the ambulance service, hospital, social care and GPs to support as many people in their own homes as possible and working hard to improve ambulance handover times at hospital given the increase in demand.  The system wide group is working with wider regional critical care, cancer networks and neighbouring partners to ensure that we can manage the pressure with their support where required. 

 They are also urging our community to follow the guidelines, stay at home and reduce the pressure where possible.

 Lyn Simpson, Chief Executive of North Cumbria Integrated Care NHS Foundation Trust who chairs the group in North Cumbria said, “This third wave has brought a challenge on a scale that we haven’t seen before.  Partners across the system have responded together, every day for a prolonged period of time to put our communities first and the response from everyone has been phenomenal.”

 Roger Jones, Head of Service at NWAS said, “Last week we saw a 20% increase in calls volume with an increase in attendances to hospitals.  We are working with colleagues to minimise the number of people that need to be admitted to hospital and ensuring that when they are, our crews can be released from hospital as soon as possible so that we can respond to more calls.”

 Dr Rod Harpin, Medical Director at NCIC said, “Over half the patients we are caring for in hospital now have COVID.  With the actions we have put in place as a system, it means that when patients come to hospital, they tend to be sicker which puts additional pressure on our services such as intensive care.  We are managing this well with our regional partners on a case by case basis. We’ve had no choice in taking some decisions around suspending routine and planned care while we are at the height of the pandemic, but we want to assure you that if you are invited to an appointment or have an urgent medical need, services are here for you.”

 Dr Shahedal Bari, Medical Director at University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Along with other hospitals up and down the country, we are seeing an increased number of people coming into our hospitals with COVID-19, with more of them needing to be looked after in our intensive care units than in the first wave. We continue to work with our colleagues from across the health and social care system to support each other to allow us all to continue to safely care for patients but we need everyone’s help to reduce the spread of this virus. Please stay at home and follow national guidance as it will make a difference if we all play our part,”

 John Readman, Executive Director – People at Cumbria County Council said, “Our priority has been to support our care homes, care home staff and social care service to enable people who no longer need hospital treatment to go home or to an appropriate placement so that the hospital beds are available for those who need them most.  It has been challenging due to the number of infections in the community which has affected our care homes and staff but everyone is working very hard as a team to respond to this third wave.”

 Despite the significant pressure the message is clear that anyone who needs urgent medical help should still feel confident that services are there for them.

 People do not stop having heart attacks, strokes or accidents and it is still a priority that anyone having a medical emergency will be treated.

 This is equally important for people who may need urgent medical advice through their GP, for instance they may be concerned about symptoms of cancer.

 Dr Colin Patterson, lead GP for NHS North Cumbria Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said: “We know our primary care services are extremely busy. Alongside looking after people who need medical advice and treatment our teams are also rolling out the covid vaccine programme.  There is no doubt that this is one of the most challenging times for general practice, and it remains a priority to ensure that people still have access to the care they need, while vaccinating our most vulnerable members of the community.”

 Dr Lauren Dixon, lead GP for NHS Morecambe Bay Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) said: “Primary Care are doing a fantastic job in rolling out the COVID-19 vaccine programme and a lot of our GPs are also working above and beyond to help some of the care homes that are currently in outbreak, which has been quite challenging.

 “While this is a very busy time for the NHS, I would like to stress that your GP practice is still here to support you, we don’t want serious health conditions going undetected so if you have any concerns, please get in touch.

“I would urge everyone to stick to the guidance and to stay at home as much as possible to help reduce the spread of the virus.”

 Colin Cox, Director of Public Health for Cumbria County Council added, “There are early signs that the number of infections are starting to go down, however we know it can take a few weeks for that to reduce the impact on our NHS, so we are not out of the woods yet.  The arrival of the vaccine and the speed and scale of the vaccination programme here in Cumbria is providing us all with some much needed optimism to get coronavirus under control. But for now, in order to protect the NHS and ensure that it can keep providing appropriate care across the County, we all need to be rigorous about following the lockdown rules in order to keep driving down the rate of infection in Cumbria.”

 You can help by choosing the service most appropriate for your needs.  This includes:

  • NHS 111 – this service provides 24 hour advice on any healthcare need
  • Pharmacy – think pharmacy first where there are trained professionals who can prescribe medicines and give advice
  • GP – for ongoing or persistent medical issues
  • Minor Injuries and Urgent Treatment centres – for urgent but not life-threatening issues
  • A&E - for life-threatening and serious emergencies only.