The plea from health chiefs yesterday came as detailed planning continues across the NHS in the North East and North Cumbria to ensure it is well prepared to care and protect patients, staff and communities.
It was issued as Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust confirmed that included a patient who died in the Northumbria Specialist Emergency Care Hospital in Cramlington.
It was the second coronavirus death in the North East, after North Tees and Hartlepool Trust confirmed the death of a patient, who had underlying health conditions, being treated at the University of North Tees Hospital in Stockton. A further death at a hospital run by South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust was reported today.
Plans being rolled out include restricting visiting in hospitals, increasing good hand-washing practices and rearranging face-to-face appointments to telephone or video consultations.
The NHS in the region is also taking a number of steps to increase capacity to ensure hospitals are ready to respond to the anticipated increase in patients requiring hospital admission and respiratory support.
Measures will include taking steps to postpone non-urgent planned operations so that NHS staff can focus on caring for the most critically ill. Emergency admissions, cancer treatment and other urgent clinical care will remain unaffected.
It also includes extra support to speed up discharge of patients from hospital who are medically fit so they can return home and to free-up beds.
Patients across the region should continue to attend appointments as planned until instructed otherwise by their local NHS, but people are asked not to call busy hospital teams to ask about planned operations. This information will be shared directly to those patients affected as soon as possible by the local NHS.
The region’s NHS is also taking steps to ensure the health and wellbeing of its staff during what is inevitably going to be a difficult time for frontline services.
Medical director for NHS England (North East and Cumbria), Professor Chris Gray, said: “There is lots of detailed planning taking place across our patch to make sure we are well prepared and ready for what lies ahead.
“While these are hard decisions, they are important measures which our staff, patients and communities would expect us to take to allow us to free up capacity to care for the most critically ill. We would appeal to the public for their help and support as we do this.
“I would like to thank all our staff, partners, patients and wider communities for their unrelenting support and commitment in these unprecedented times.
“We are renowned for being a friendly region and one that works together no matter what. So, it goes without saying that we should continue to be kind and look out for one another – especially those who are most vulnerable.”
As cases of coronavirus continue to rise across the country, health chiefs are reminding people there is plenty they can to do to help their NHS, their loved ones and their communities.
They are reiterating Government advice which states people should not to come into hospital or their GP practice and stay at home if they have a high temperature (37.8 degrees or higher) and/or a new, continuous cough.
And that they should only call 111 if they feel they cannot cope with their symptoms at home, their condition gets worse or their symptoms do not get better after seven days.
Professor Peter Kelly, from Public Health England, said: “I would like to take this opportunity to remind people that it is essential they follow national guidance to protect themselves and others – which includes the steps they need to take if they suspect they have coronavirus.
“Be in no doubt. You can make a difference. By using services sensibly, you can help to relieve pressure on the NHS which it will undoubtly face over the coming weeks. By washing hands or avoiding non-essential contact with others you can help in the battle against this virus. This is particularly important if we are to protect people over 70, those with underlying health conditions and pregnant women.”
Other advice includes:
If you have symptoms, stay at home for 7 days;
If you live with other people, they should stay at home for 14 days from the day the first person got symptoms;
If you live with someone who is 70 or over, has a long-term condition, is pregnant or has a weakened immune system, try to find somewhere else for them to stay for 14 days. If you have to stay at home together, try to keep away from each other as much as possible.
For more information about coronavirus, visit www.nhs.uk/coronavirus