Hospitals are cancelling operations as staff struggle to make it into work due to the wintry weather.
Urgent and emergency care services across the region’s hospitals are continuing to run as usual, according to the region's NHS, however, people are asked to attend only if absolutely necessary as services are extremely busy.
Call the free NHS 111 number if you need urgent medical help or advice – GP advice is available by dialling this number and may prevent an unnecessary visit to the practice.
The adverse weather is affecting the ability of some NHS staff to travel to their place of wor.k
Accordingly, there has been disruption to some non-urgent hospital outpatient appointments and non-urgent operations / procedures - affected hospitals are making every effort to contact those patients as soon as possible and apologise for any inconvenience caused.
Any patient who is unsure whether their appointment is going ahead should call the hospital to check.
If patients are unable to attend their planned hospital appointments due to the severe weather, they are also being asked to call ahead using the number provided on their original appointment letter to let the hospital know.
Some NHS staff have struggled to get to work due to the weather. Any staff who are not on duty but able to safely get to work are asked to get in touch with their line manager ASAP – your help and support is much appreciated.
Community healthcare teams may struggle to reach people at home and patients may experience delays in visits from their healthcare professional – please check on relatives and neighbours to see that they are safe, warm and well and have enough food and medication.
For children who are off school, keep them safe and wrapped up warm.The ‘NHS Child Health’ app is free to download and offers advice and support if your child is poorly.
In addition, some GP practices are struggling to stay open and those affected will be contacting patients and re-arranging any routine appointments at the earliest convenience. If patients require urgent medical advice, and their GP practice is open, they will be assessed over the phone and a decision taken about the most appropriate service to access.
The North East Ambulance Service (NEAS) is also experiencing pressures and is asking people to consider carefully whether they need to dial 999.
NEAS Chief Operating Officer Paul Liversidge said: “As an emergency service, we don’t stop for any weather and in the past 36 hours we have attended 1,286 incidents and answered 1,638 emergency 999 calls and 2,785 NHS111 calls.
“Our priority right now is the safety of our staff and patients travelling in adverse weather conditions.
"We are prioritising our resources to those patients who are critically ill – please bear with us if it takes us a little longer to access areas with heavier snow or traffic disruption.
“We have cancelled some scheduled patient transport bookings for patients with routine hospital appointments so that we can ensure our service for critically ill patients and hospital discharges is undisturbed.”
The NHS is urging patients to choose which service they use wisely, and advises the elderly and vulnerable people to keep warm, both indoors and out, and to heat their homes to at least 18C.
NHS England’s Medical Director for Cumbria and the North East, Professor Chris Gray, said: “Please take care of yourself and check that your neighbours are okay.
"Our advice is: if you don’t need to go out, stay in, stay warm and stay well. If you have to go out, take extra care on slippy surfaces.
“Health advice is available by calling 111, on the NHS Choices website or from your local pharmacist or GP – please do get advice at the first sign of illness. Your local pharmacist is an excellent first point of call for advice and seeing them helps to take pressure off GPs and reduces non-emergency A&E visits.
“I want to say a huge thank you to all of our NHS staff across the region who are working so hard to deliver the best service they can at this very difficult time.”
Cold weather can be very harmful to health and around 25,000 more people die over the course of each winter compared with other times of the year.