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Covid puts high demand on NHS services in Kent and Medway

Published: 07/01/2021

People in Kent and Medway are being asked to use NHS services wisely as pressure on hospitals, ambulance service and 111 mounts.

The four acute hospital trusts across the county have high numbers of people using A&E, South East Coast Ambulance is under a lot of pressure, and calls to 111 have risen, meaning callers are waiting longer than usual.

The NHS in Kent and Medway has twice the number of Covid positive patients receiving care in its hospitals than it did in the first wave but is working together to provide support where needed.

More critical care beds have been made available, vital cancer treatment and other urgent operations are continuing. Some other procedures may be delayed as staff are needed to support the additional critical care beds which have opened. Patients should continue to keep appointments unless they have been told not to attend.

The pressure will stay on the NHS as long as the infection rates stay high.

Wilf Williams, Accountable Officer for NHS Kent and Medway Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and the strategic lead for the NHS response to Coronavirus in Kent and Medway, said: “The NHS is always busy at this time of year but the latest wave of Covid is putting all of our services under immense pressure. This is the hardest period we’ve seen since the start of the pandemic and we’re incredibly grateful to everyone who is working very hard to manage these challenging circumstances.

“We currently have twice the number of Covid positive patients receiving care in our hospitals than we did in the first wave.

“As Covid cases in the community have risen, the number of hospital admissions has also increased and there is pressure on all of our services. Our hospitals, ambulances, A&Es, community services, 111 and GP practices are experiencing high demand so we’re asking everyone who needs to use NHS services to do so wisely.

“We urge the public to play their part in stopping the spread of Covid-19 by staying at home as much as possible, social distancing, wearing masks and washing their hands. If anyone needs urgent medical help they should call 111 first.”

NHS services in Kent and Medway are also experiencing higher rates of staff sickness due to the new strain of Covid.

Joe Garcia, South East Ambulance (SECAmb) Executive Director of Operations, said: “We are experiencing some very busy days and are working hard to respond to patients as quickly as possible. We are prioritising our response to our most seriously ill and injured patients but we are taking longer to reach some patients.

“We urge people to only call 999 in the event of a serious or life-threatening emergency and to use 111 for non-emergencies. We have also seen a high number of calls to our 111 service which is working hard to help patients. We would remind people to also make use of 111 online at 111.nhs.uk.

“If you have had to call 999 and are waiting for an ambulance, please only call us back if a patient’s condition worsens.

“We are very proud of our staff and thank them for their ongoing efforts and professionalism.”

HM Government banner that reads: Coronavirus You could be spreading it without knowing. Arounds 1 in 3 people with COVID-19 don't have any symptoms, but can still pass it on.

James Devine, Chief Executive at Medway NHS Foundation Trust, said: ‘’Like many other NHS hospitals, our Emergency Department is currently experiencing high numbers of attendances. Please support us by using our emergency services appropriately; if you need medical help, contact NHS 111 first. By doing this you will help us keep you safe and ensure you receive the right care in the right place at the right time.’’

Miles Scott, Chief Executive for Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust said: “Hospitals across Kent and Medway have had to postpone routine, non-urgent operations in order to free staff and space to treat COVID patients. Urgent treatments, including cancer operations, will go ahead as normal – so please attend your appointments as normal unless you hear from us.

“We are working hard to ensure we treat as many patients as possible, while ensuring we provide a safe hospital environment. However, the increase in numbers has meant difficult decisions to prioritise cases of higher urgency.

“Patients affected by the decision will be contacted, if patients are not contacted they should continue to attend their hospital appointments as normal.

“It is vital that everyone across Kent does everything they can to help slow the spread of the virus by washing their hands frequently, wearing a face covering, and following social distancing guidelines.”

Dr Rebecca Martin, Chief Medical Officer for East Kent Hospitals said: “Our staff are working incredibly hard caring for more than double the number of patients who have tested positive for coronavirus than in the first wave, and our hospitals are extremely busy.

“We are still here to help patients who need us for emergency and cancer care, but we are asking people to keep A&E for emergencies only and to call 111 for advice if they are not sure.

“If you need urgent care, NHS111 can now book a timed appointment for patients at the most appropriate service including Urgent Treatment Centres and hospital emergency departments if needed.”