Health professionals working in Derbyshire’s NHS have been spelling out the current challenges facing the NHS, the day after Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s announcement of a further period of national lockdown, as pressure on the service continues to mount.

The Prime Minister announced on Monday a further period of national lockdown, with the specific objective of protecting the NHS. This followed a rise in cases of Covid-19 in recent weeks, coupled with the faster-paced spread caused by the new strain of the virus.

The number of beds occupied by patients with confirmed Covid-19 has risen by 67% since Christmas Eve, with these patients now occupying 23.7% of the total number of available beds, a figure that is rising daily.  To accommodate such high numbers of patients, hospitals have had to start taking difficult decisions, including the cancellation of outpatient appointments and some surgery to free up the required beds to care for Covid-19 patients.

Krishna Kallianpur, Executive Chief Nurse at Chesterfield Royal Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, said:

“We are now looking after more inpatients with a positive diagnosis of COVID-19 than we were during the April 2020 peak. The demand on our services also continues to rise which brings with it additional challenges. This means that we have, as expected, further escalated our plans to ensure we have the capacity at our hospital to give all of our patients the immediate care they need during an ever-changing situation.

The situation we find ourselves in is very challenging and, in order to free up capacity and ensure we have more intensive care space, the difficult decision has been made to postpone elective surgery for the remainder of the week.  All affected patients are being contacted immediately, will be informed about the next steps of their treatment and our clinical teams are constantly reviewing the situation to ensure can we can reinstate surgeries as soon as we possibly can.”

Dr Magnus Harrison, Executive Medical Director at UHDB, said: “This is without doubt the busiest period anyone who currently works in the NHS can remember. We are currently caring for more patients with Covid-19 than we did during the first wave in April, while we are also now seeing an increase in demand on our hospitals because of winter pressures.

“These are truly unprecedented times and everyone has a part to play in helping to limit the spread of the virus this winter. Now is not the time to be complacent, so it is crucial that everyone continues to follow the basic guidance of social distancing, wearing a mask and observing good hand hygiene, to stop the virus from affecting the most vulnerable people in our communities.

“At this time of year, we often ask patients to make wise choices as we see services come under pressure from flu and other winter illnesses. This message is especially important this year and we want to stress the vital role that you can all play in helping us by choosing the right NHS services for you this winter.

“If you have a health concern that’s not an emergency, but you’re thinking about coming to A&E, it’s absolutely imperative that you call NHS 111 first. Not only can NHS 111 provide you with advice on the best point of care, but they can also book you an appointment with the NHS service that you need.

“Derbyshire’s five Urgent Treatment Centres, our pharmacies and our GP practices also all remain open, as do our Minor Injuries Units at both Samuel Johnson and Sir Robert Peel Community Hospitals. While services may be operating slightly differently during the pandemic, your needs will be met at those services.  It is absolutely crucial that anyone who does not need to be in a hospital setting, does not attend, as we must be able to focus our attention on the increasing numbers of very poorly patients.”

Dr John Sykes, Medical Director at Derbyshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust said:

“It’s really important that we look after our mental health during these difficult times.  Supporting each other where we can, taking regular exercise and eating healthily can all help to sustain our mental health, but we know that this is going to be a difficult period for people. 

Along with a wide range of community support available, the 24/7 mental health support line remains open to anyone who needs support with their mental health and wellbeing.  Anyone can call 0800 028 0077 for support and advice, or visit www.joinedupcarederbyshire.co.uk and https://www.derbyshirehealthcareft.nhs.uk/getting-help/coronavirus-covid-19/self-care for further resources and information.