NHS in Devon under extreme pressure amid heatwave and rising Covid cases

  • Watch Sam Blackledge's report

Record breaking temperatures, rising Covid rates and the start of a busy summer break are combining to put huge pressure on health services in the South West.

Over the summer months the NHS usually faces a dip in the level of admissions - but this year this has not been the case.

Adrian Harris, chief medical officer at the Royal Devon NHS Trust, said: "It's extremely challenging, it really significantly drives demand as we see more and more patients turn up when it gets hot - they turn up into our emergency apartment with relatively minor problems.

"They turn up because the heat makes them unwell. Keeping the hospital cool is a challenge, looking after patients in our older wards that aren't air conditioned is a challenge.

"Of course when it gets very humid and particularly when it doesn't cool down overnight that's when we start to run into problems and we have seen that over the past two nights."

It is not just the hot weather that is putting strain on the NHS in Devon. Health services are also struggling to cope with large staff absences due to Covid.

More than 1,000 members of hospital staff have been absent due to Covid in the past week, four times the number in early June. And there have been four deaths in Devon registered in the past week mentioning Covid-19 on the death certificate.

Waiting times in A&E departments across the county are as long as 10 hours.

How you can help

To help reduce pressure on services, people are being asked to follow this advice:

  • Pick family and friends up when they’re ready to be discharged from hospital

  • Choose the best service to meet your needs if you are unwell or injured - only come to A&E if it is a genuine emergency and remember GPs, 111 and pharmacies are an option

  • Wear a mask if you have a health appointment or are visiting a loved one in hospital

  • Stay at home if you have Covid or symptoms of any infectious disease