Covid levels in Somerset have reached an all-time high

Health chiefs have warned that coronavirus levels in Somerset have reached an all-time high, putting unprecedented demand on services.

Around 200 patients are now being treated for Covid-19 in county hospitals.

High sickness rates among staff mean more operations are being cancelled, and new restrictions are being imposed on visits to patients needing end-of-life care.

The county's chief medical officer has issued a plea for people to do all they can to limit the spread of the virus.

Dr Dan Meron, Chief Medical Officer for Somerset NHS Foundation Trust and Yeovil District Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, said: "Across both our trusts we are caring for approximately 200 patients with coronavirus and we are juggling absence rates of between 6% and 8% as a direct result of colleagues being ill with the virus. The measures hospitals and other healthcare settings work within mean that this has a massive impact on the running of our services.

"Very sadly this also impacts on the planned care - the operations and other procedures that patients have waited a long time for - because we simply don't have the beds in which to care for them and we have large gaps in our staffing rotas.

"We are currently dealing with one of the most difficult periods of this pandemic and we are asking the public for their help and understanding.

"Please do all you can to limit the spread of coronavirus - it is very much still here and affecting your local health services.

"You can also really help us by supporting a family member or loved one to leave hospital when they are medically fit to do so. That will enable us to admit another person who needs our care.

"Also think carefully about whether you need our services now at this time when we are under extreme pressure. However, I must emphasise that we are here for you and you should not hesitate to contact us if you require urgent attention."

Musgrove Park Hospital, Yeovil Hospital and the county's community hospital have taken the decision to temporarily restrict visiting to patients receiving end of life care and for carers of patients with specific needs that require the support of a carer. Details are available on the NHS trusts' websites.

Dr Ed Ford, Chairman of Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group said: "During this incredibly challenging time, GP practices are working hard to ensure patients who need an urgent consultation are prioritised. This might mean that you may experience delays for less urgent conditions.

"Thank you for being patient and kind to our staff if you need to wait longer to have your enquiry dealt with.

"You can also continue to support us by seeking help from the NHS website which has lots of advice about self-management and can direct you to the most appropriate service if you need it. Most importantly you can help by doing all you can to help stop the spread of COVID-19."