'Covid has not gone away' - Warning as cases rise at Devon hospitals

  • Medical director for NHS Devon Dr Paul Johnson speaks to ITV News

The NHS in Devon is asking people with infectious illnesses not to visit their loved ones in hospital as Covid cases are on the rise.

There are currently more than 200 patients with Covid in the county's hospitals, some of them seriously ill. It means that a further 60 beds are out of action because of the need to keep those patients in isolation.

As well as asking people with coronavirus and other symptoms to stay away, Dr Paul Johnson, the medical director of NHS Devon is reminding people to take every precaution when visiting.

He said: "We don't necessarily have to wear masks in public spaces or in shops and so on now but we still do need to wear them in hospitals and we still do need to wash our hands and use the sanitiser and keep our distance in hospitals because that's where often the most vulnerable people are who are most sick and we've got to try as much as we can to keep Covid out of our hospitals.

Face mask rules are still in place in hospitals Credit: NHS England

No decision has been made to suspend visiting as Dr Johnson said this is really important for patient wellbeing.

He continued: "We definitely not stopping visiting. There will be some restrictions around visiting and sort of staggered visiting in order to stop places getting too busy but we see the value, if you're in hospital, of being able to see your friends or your family, particularly if you are critically ill.

"That's really valuable and that's part of your treatment and we wouldn't want to go back to the times when we had to stop that altogether. So that's not our intention at this time."

The vaccination programme has been a real success in controlling the spread of coronavirus and in limiting the severity of symptoms but Dr Johnson wants to remind people that "Covid has not gone away".

He said: "If you've got any symptoms suggesting that you've got an infectious disease, even if it's a symptoms of a cold, then just stay away - whether it be Covid or something else.

"Just stay away from the hospitals if you were planning to visit or come for outpatients until you're feeling better, until those symptoms settle."

For each Covid-19 inpatient the NHS in Devon postpones, on average, eight planned procedures. 

The NHS has shared guidance for hospital visitors Credit: NHS

The trust is asking people to choose the right service for their needs, providing the following guidance:

  • Keep the Emergency Department (Accident and Emergency) for emergencies. If your condition is not an emergency, choose a different service.

  • Use your local pharmacist for minor conditions such as insect bites, ear ache, skin rashes.

  • Use the HANDi paediatric app for advice on common childhood illnesses

  • Use NHS 111 – online or by phone if you need advice or medical treatment quickly and can’t wait to see your GP. If you need to be seen by a Minor Injuries or Emergency Department they can book you in.

  • Get vaccinated against Covid

  • Continue to maintain good hygiene, especially hand hygiene, to reduce the spread of Covid-19. 

  • Collect friends or family members from hospital as soon as possible when they are ready to leave so their bed can given to the next person who needs it.