The best gift we could get is the start of our COVID vaccination programme. But vaccinations are still in the very early stages and no-one will receive full protection until some time after they receive their second vaccine dose. That means no-one will be protected until mid January.
We also have a new strain of the virus to contend with which seems to spread more quickly.
That means we have to continue to make every effort to stop the spread of the disease by abiding strictly to Tier 3 guidelines. The inevitable consequence of not doing this is that we shall become a Tier 4 area.
Hospitals across the area have seen an increasing number of staff having to self-isolate, while at the same time there are growing numbers of patients. GP practices, mental health and community services are similarly impacted, as are care homes and social care.
Hospitals remain busy, and redeployment of staff to deal with rising COVID cases will mean other essential services suffering and routine operations suspended.
This is a very different winter for the NHS, with patients staying in hospital for longer lengths of time, whilst they recover from this deadly virus.
We would like to thank everyone who is following the rules as we know it is tough mentally, financially, and physically. However, in these crucial weeks we must ask people to do everything they can to follow the lockdown measures. This virus can only spread by too many people mixing with other households and people outside their bubble. Are you doing everything you can to reduce the spread of this virus?
Only by limiting social contact, can you help protect yourself, your family and our health and care staff from contracting the virus. Importantly, the quicker we control the virus the quicker we can return back to the new normal and treat people who are waiting for routine treatment.
Everyone can help by first of all complying with Tier 3 guidance and protecting themselves, their families and their work colleagues from contracting the virus. We need people to act now.
Increased cases lead to increased admissions and sadly deaths. Health and care will be in a difficult place in the coming weeks, if people do not limit their social contact and follow the rules now. This will unfortunately mean we have to take difficult decisions to stop routine treatment, in order to save lives from COVID-19. In the long-term this will have a greater impact on people’s health, which we all want to avoid.
This holiday period we’re reminding people to use the most appropriate service for their needs, which may include pharmacies, out of hours GP services or even self-care. We would remind everyone that A&E and 999 is for genuine life-or-limb emergencies.
Your NHS is here for you and we’re working differently to stay safe. If you do need us for urgent care, or you are worried you have early symptoms of cancer then don’t delay, however please help us by phoning NHS 111 or your GP first.
Help and advice for anyone with an urgent need is available online from NHS.111.uk or by dialling NHS111. If you have COVID symptoms you should book a test by dialling 119.
Only take advice and guidance about COVID from official NHS sources and not social media.
Urgent 24/7 mental health support is also available by calling 0300 123 0907 (option 1) for people living in North Staffordshire, and 0808 196 3002 for those living in South Staffordshire.
Finally, we would like to thank our fantastic staff who have gone above and beyond this year. We know they are tired and many are once again having to stay away from their loved ones, to reduce the risk of spreading this terrible virus. We know how much you are giving to save lives, it does not go unappreciated.
We hope everyone has a safe Christmas and New Year and thank you for everything you are doing.
Marcus Warnes, Accountable Officer, NHS Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent Clinical Commissioning Groups
Tracey Bullock, Chief Executive, University Hospital of North Midlands NHS Trust
Gavin Boyle, Chief Executive, University Hospitals Derby and Burton NHS Foundation Trust
David Loughton, Chief Executive, Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust
Neil Carr, Chief Executive, Midlands Partnership NHS Foundation Trust
Peter Axon, Chief Executive, North Staffordshire Combined Healthcare NHS Trust
Prem Singh, Chair, Together We’re Better
Councillor Abi Brown, Leader, Stoke-on-Trent City Council
Councillor Alan White, Leader, Staffordshire County Council