7th March 2021

Somerset health commissioners commend front-line staff as the local NHS manages unprecedented winter demand

The hard work and commitment of front-line NHS staff working over Christmas and the New Year and was commended today by Somerset CCG, the GP body responsible for the planning and funding of Somerset’s health services.

Communities across Somerset were also thanked for their willingness to help the most vulnerable in the community, particularly the frail elderly who can be particularly prone to bouts of ill health which may need the support of the emergency or urgent care services.

Accident and Emergency Departments at Yeovil District Hospital and Taunton’s Musgrove Park Hospital coped well throughout December despite reporting higher than usual numbers of patients needing to be admitted through their Accident and Emergency Departments.

Somerset Partnership NHS Foundation Trust’s community hospital staff, their Minor Injury Units and their community nurses also managed demand which was significantly higher than the same period last year. The South Western Ambulance Service saw amongst the biggest rise in demand reporting a 38% increase in the number of incidents responded to over the weekend following Christmas and Boxing Day.

Dr Ed Ford, a Minehead GP and Urgent Care Lead with Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group, commended everyone working in and with the NHS in Somerset this Christmas and New Year holiday saying:

“Before, during and after this Christmas and New Year holiday GPs and NHS staff have been feeling the pressure of seeing many more patients in need of emergency or urgent health care services. It is a tribute to the close collaborative working between all the parts of the Somerset health community that we have been able to both meet this extra demand and maintain the high quality of care that patients and their relatives have come to expect.

“Local people, particularly in the county’s many smaller rural communities, have also been heeding the call to look out for well being of their elderly and vulnerable neighbours. The combined effect of what may seem just small acts of kindness and community spirit can have a big impact upon service demand and this is sincerely appreciated by NHS staff across the county.”

Musgrove Park Hospital’s Director of Nursing, Carol Dight, said: “We plan for periods of high demand such as this to try to ensure that we can provide high quality, safe care to all patients needing to come to our hospital; however, in recent weeks we have seen more patients that we predicted which has significantly increase the pressure on the hospital.

“Our teams across the hospital are working flexibly and tirelessly to ensure that we continue to be able to provide appropriate care and treatment to everyone coming to the hospital; and our performance levels, in this time of extreme pressure, are a real testament to just how hard they are working to achieve that.”

Director of Nursing at Yeovil Hospital, Helen Ryan, said: “Staff at our hospital are working extremely hard to ensure we continue to provide access to good, safe care during this very busy period. We hope people will support their local hospital by making the best use of the available range of NHS services and by being patient should they or a loved one require our help”.

Sue Balcombe, Director of Nursing and Patient Safety at Somerset Partnership NHS Foundation Trust added: “The last few weeks have seen unusually high level of pressure on health services and our local acute and community hospitals as well as district nursing, independent living teams and other community teams have been fully stretched to meet the demands on their services.

“Somerset Partnership continues to work with colleagues in acute, primary and social care to make sure patients are cared for as effectively and safely as possible in these challenging circumstances, and I would pay tribute to the commitment and compassion of all our staff who have worked – and continue to work – so hard over the Christmas and New Year period.”

The pressure upon local health services is not over. Local hospital Trusts have had to cancel a number of routine hospital appointments and operations as a consequence of the high number of emergency admissions.

High demand upon community hospital beds has also led to some patients and their relatives to be advised that their choice of community hospital to be discharged to may be more limited.

With demand for emergency and urgent health care services still at seasonally high levels the public are still being asked to help themselves and the NHS by getting the right treatment.

This includes:

Self-help and pharmacy:
This includes treating minor ailments and illness yourself or making use of your local pharmacist for advice and support with common ailments and illness.

NHS 111
If you do not know what health service you need for your level of illness just telephone the 111 NHS helpline. The 24 hour service is free to call from landline or mobile and call handler will signpost you to the service which best meets your needs.

Minor Injury Unit
The service will also tell you how to find your nearest Minor Injury Unit, emergency dentist, or late night pharmacist and much more. Alternatively look online for health advice and support on the NHS Choices web site at: www.nhs.uk

GP surgery
If you have been ill for a few days or have symptoms which don’t symptoms which don’t seem to be getting better make an appointment with your GP.

999 ambulance
If you or a friend or relative are experiencing a life threatening emergency, such as chest pain, serious loss of blood or unconsciousness telephone 999 for an ambulance.

Winter ‘friends’
You can be a ‘winter friend’ to a elderly neighbour or relative by:
Dropping in on an older neighbour or friend once a week – more often if the weather turns very cold.
Checking their home is warm enough.
Making sure the person you are looking in on is eating well and has some non-perishable foods in the cupboard that they can heat up in case they can’t leave the house for a few days
Make sure the person you are helping has warm and grippy shoes and a good coat, hat and gloves. Offer to walk with them if they are not confident alone. If it snows clear the path to their door for them.