With the extreme weather across the North East and North Cumbria forecast to carry on this weekend, the region’s NHS has urgent guidance for patients, staff and the public.
They have said:
· First of all we must thank all NHS staff for the hard work and dedication. They have continued to work tirelessly to keep things running as smoothly as possible.
· Urgent and emergency care services across the region are continuing to run but often with a skeleton staff. Please only attend if absolutely necessary as services will continue to be extremely busy at the weekend.
· Different parts of the region are affected varyingly but the adverse weather is affecting the ability of some NHS staff to travel to their place of work. 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 your original appointment letter to let the hospital know.
· Community healthcare teams may struggle to reach people at home and patients may experience delays in visits from their healthcare professional – please check on your relatives and neighbours to see that they are safe, warm and well and have enough food and medication.
· Advice and signposting to community services is available for free through NHS 111.
· Please remember to use 999 services wisely.
· Please ensure you keep warm, both indoors and out, and heat your home to at least 18C. Relatives and friends are asked to check that their elderly and vulnerable family members, neighbours and friends have the medicines they need and if not, support them in getting what they need. The NHS is working very hard to maintain services. This includes working with emergency services to ensure medicines reach people.
· The majority of pharmacies are open, however some pharmacies in the worst affected areas have had to close or are opening for shorter periods than usual. The NHS is urging people to stock up their medicine cabinets and to make sure they have enough prescription medicine going into the weekend and beyond. If you need any medication, please call 111 and they will direct you to your nearest open pharmacy
· Please keep children safe and warm. The ‘NHS Child Health’ app is free to download and offers advice and support if your child is poorly.
· Most dental practices across the region are open. Patients are advised to call their practice before setting off to check it is operating as usual.
NHS England’s Medical Director for Cumbria and the North East, Professor Chris Gray, said: “We want to reassure people the NHS in our region is coping, but please use services responsibly and only go to an A&E department for emergencies or life threatening conditions.
“Urgent care centres are open as usual, as are GP practices, many of which offer appointments in the evening or over the weekend. Please ring ahead to make an appointment if you don’t have one. You can also arrange an appointment by calling NHS 111.
“The NHS Choices website is an excellent site to get health advice and information about where to go to get the right treatment. And if you need medical help and advice fast, but it’s not life-threatening or an emergency, call NHS 111 at any time.
“I want to thank our NHS colleagues in the North East and North Cumbria for their heroic and determined efforts to make sure patients have received and continue to receive the care they need. Staff are staying overnight at hospitals, getting lifts to work from family and colleagues with four-wheel drive vehicles and are even walking long distances to get to their place of work. Everyone appreciates their dedication and efforts in such difficult circumstances.”
Dr Stewart Findlay, a GP and chairman of the North East and North Cumbria urgent and emergency care network said, “Thank you to NHS staff for all of your hard work over the last few days. Without you all, we wouldn’t have been able to keep services running the way we have done.
“I would urge everyone to think about how they can support NHS services by keeping yourself warm, looking after yourself and only seeking medical help when it’s an emergency.”
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.
If you care for children, the child health app is free to download and offers a wealth of advice and support.