Health services around Bristol moved to highest alert level amid 'extraordinary' pressure
The health and care system in Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire has been moved to its highest state of alert.
Health leaders have issued a fresh call for help to relieve the pressure during what are being described as 'extraordinary times'.
They are urging people to stay away from busy emergency departments and minor injuries units unless absolutely necessary, with additional exceptional steps being taken to manage the situation.
It comes as Covid-19 hospitalisations and ongoing workforce challenges place incredible pressure on services.
The highest state of alert is known as Opel 4, reflecting the level of pressure being felt across NHS hospitals, GP practices, community and mental health services and social care.
From this week (Monday, 8 November), people being admitted to hospital will be asked to plan their discharge with ward staff straight away, with efforts made to move people on as soon as they are medically well enough to leave hospital – even if that’s to an appropriate place further from home.
The step is being taken to ensure hospital beds are available for those who are most acutely unwell.
Family and friends will be called on to facilitate timely discharge of their loved ones, and voluntary and community sector partners such as the Red Cross will support more people to return home or to another service in the community.
Leaders say the coming weeks are likely to be tough and are urging the public to:
• Think 111 First for all urgent but non-life-threatening injuries or illnesses, rather than visiting busy emergency departments and minor injuries units.
• Help look out for your community – checking in on loved ones and neighbours who might need extra support, especially as winter approaches.
• Protect yourself – get vaccinated against Covid-19 and flu. You can find all the details you need at grabajab.net.
Dr Peter Brindle, Medical Director for the Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “Workforce challenges, increased demand, the ongoing impact of Covid-19, and a growing backlog of people waiting for planned care make this the most challenging period we have ever experienced.
“Throughout this time, people’s safety remains our first priority. To focus our resources on those who most need them, we are taking difficult decisions – including moving people on from hospital as soon as they are medically well enough to be discharged - even if it’s to an alternative community bed further from home.
'At this stage, every hour counts'
“The public can really help us here – by checking in on loved ones who might need extra support in the community, and by ensuring they’re ready to help out with discharge as soon as we call.
"At this stage, every hour counts. Together, we need to do everything we can to make sure people are supported in the right place.
“Your continuing support for loved ones at home will make all the difference this winter.”
The Healthier Together Partnership – formed of NHS Hospital Trusts, the Ambulance Trust, the Clinical Commissioning Group, all three local authorities and community, primary care and mental health services - has written to every member of health and social care staff, local councillors, MPs and community groups to share this message.
The Partnership is also launching more targeted drives on recruitment - particularly in the care sector - in the coming weeks.