Gateshead NHS Trust have followed other trusts across the country, and taken the decision to cancel non-emergency surgery, as North East NHS and local authority leaders have issued a joint statement asking for continued public support amid concern at COVID-19 infection rates, with just 14 days until lockdown is due to end.
Yvonne Ormston, MBE, chief executive at Gateshead Health NHS Foundation Trust, said:
“Like many NHS hospitals up and down the country, we are continuing to face pressures on our services as a result of the usual increase in activity over winter and a high number of COVID-positive patients to care for.
"As a result, we’ve taken the difficult decision to temporarily suspend non-urgent elective surgery in order to release staff to support the care of COVID and emergency patients. We’re sorry to those patients who will experience this delay but we’re reviewing this on a day-by-basis in a bid to reinstate our services as soon as we can.
"I’d also like to reassure the public that the NHS is still here for you and we are still treating patients with serious illnesses or long term conditions.”
The decision comes as leaders in the region are urging people to stick to lockdown, as cases rise in the North East.
In their statement, they said:
"We know how difficult it has been to follow a second national lockdown on top of the local restrictions we have been living with for so long.
Our doctors, nurses, social care and other key workers would like to join the region’s political leaders and directors of public health in thanking everyone for their efforts.
It is thanks to your hard work that your local health services have been able to provide a wider range of vital services, including catching up on some of the treatments we were unable to deliver through the first lockdown alongside preparing for normal winter pressures as well as a second wave of COVID-19.
Like everyone, we are determined to do everything we can to support and care for you, your families and friends, but we need your help as this is not over.
Over the past few weeks, we have seen cases in our communities increasing and, as a result, hospital admissions are rising rapidly. Unfortunately, this is a trend we are likely to see continue going into winter."
Local hospitals are asking people to avoid A&E unless they have serious or life-threatening emergencies, in the hope of easing pressure on the NHS - so critical care units are kept as free as possible to deal with those people who need it most - for example, road traffic accidents, strokes and severe respiratory illnesses.
Trading Standards in Newcastle are also warning businesses not to flout lockdown restrictions.
They've visited more than 120 premises to remind owners the need to comply with the guidance. Some had continued to trade when they should have been closed.