People living in Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin are being urged to play their part in supporting health and care services this winter.
The plea comes as health services begin to head into what is likely to be the busiest and most challenging winter for them with increases in demand.
In an open letter to the public, bosses at Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), Shropshire Council, Telford and Wrekin Council, The Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust, Shropshire Community Health NHS Trust and The Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital outline the challenge services are facing as we head into the winter months – but also the ways in which the public can help support local health and care services.
The letter says: “The level of demand we have seen in Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin over the last few months has been unprecedented and the worst we have ever seen at this time of year. It is the same story across the country, and it is likely to get tougher before it gets better.
“As health and care leaders, we give you our word, we are doing everything within our power to see that our communities get the care they need when they need it.
“Both Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin currently have amongst the highest rates of infection in the West Midlands. Those getting the sickest are those who haven’t been vaccinated – and that includes some pregnant women. Now we have the new Omicron variant starting to spread, it gives another big reason for caution.
“Our hospitals are full. This is causing lengthy waits in A&E and delays in ambulances being able to hand over their patients. As a result, paramedics are unable to respond to other 999 calls in the community.
“We are also facing delays in discharging medically-fit patients from hospital – many of whom have complex personal circumstances and needs. This is leading to bed shortages and adding to ambulance waits at the ‘front door’ of A&E departments”.
Here are some simple steps we can all take to help our health and care services overcome a winter like no other:
· Get your Covid and flu vaccinations, including the booster jab if you’re eligible.
· Follow the Covid rules – Think hands, face, space, and let the fresh air in. The latest guidance means you must wear a mask in shops and on public transport (unless exempt).
· Consider how you seek help when you need it – contacting NHS 111 or visiting NHS Online is the best way to find the right service for you if you are not facing a life-threatening emergency.
· If you need a face-to-face consultation with your GP, they will see you, but you could also be signposted to other clinicians or health professionals who can see you quicker and give you the help you need. That could be a Nurse Practitioner or your local Pharmacist – these are skilled people who can help you to get well sooner.
· Support a loved one to get home from hospital – spending as little time in hospital as possible is better for patients and means that NHS beds can be freed up for others with urgent care needs. Supporting older patients to get home from hospital efficiently is an important part of their recovery and it also protects them from things like hospital infections, falls and a loss of independence.
· If you have a relative or loved one in hospital who is well enough to go home, but is waiting to be discharged with homecare and community health support, you may be able to help them get home quicker if you and your family can support them at home. If you feel that this is an option that you could consider, please speak to their Ward Manager or Social Worker to explore further.
Dr John Pepper, Chair of Shropshire, Telford & Wrekin Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “We are already seeing high levels of demand for our services as we head into winter. Health and care staff are doing all they can to provide the best care possible but we can’t do this without the public playing their part in helping our NHS services over the coming months.
“We would strongly encourage residents to take the actions highlighted in the letter to help reduce pressure and ensure everyone is able to access the services and support they need this winter, this includes getting vaccinated against Covid and flu is one crucial way the public can help, and also using services such as NHS 111 or NHS Online to find the right service for you, if you are not facing a life-threatening emergency.”
Andy Begley, Shropshire Chief Executive, said: “This is the beginning of what will be a long and extremely difficult winter for health and care staff. They need our support and everyone can play their part simply by following the guidance.
“We need to continue to protect ourselves, our most vulnerable members in our community, as well as our health and care services. “
Shaun Davies, Leader of Telford and Wrekin Council, added: “Please get behind our hard-working and committed health and care staff, who have worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic. Every small action we take to keep ourselves healthy and check in on others will help towards making urgent care available for those who really need it this winter.
“Please help us to help you and those you love.”