Health leaders at South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust have praised the heroic efforts of its staff as services come under increasing pressure during one the most challenging starts to a New Year ever seen.
Over the past two weeks the Trust has seen a huge increase surge in cases of COVID-19. The situation reflects the extremely high transmission of the Omicron variant and the amount of ‘incidental’ COVID-19 being detected amongst patients who need emergency hospital care for other reasons, but who are also found to have COVID-19 through the Trust’s robust swabbing procedures on admission.
Like all parts of the NHS, the Trust has also been impacted by staffing challenges with more than 10 per cent of the workforce currently unavailable due to the impact of COVID-19 and loss of staff through illness and self-isolation.
Despite the immensely challenging situation, Trust leaders are reassuring patients and members of the public local NHS services are still here when they need them, but warn of some disruption to planned services over the coming weeks.
The Trust has already taken several steps to support the current pressures including redeployment of some corporate staff to support frontline colleagues and the suspension of visiting to all adult inpatient wards to help prevent the spread of infection.
Maternity services are also impacted by significant staffing challenges and women who are due to give birth over the coming weeks will deliver their babies at Sunderland Royal Hospital.
Some non-urgent routine community visits are being postponed so community staff can focus on clinically urgent care including End of Life support, as well as supporting the rapid co-ordination of safe discharge of patients from hospital.
Dr Shahid Wahid, Executive Medical Director at South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust explained: “It has been an exceptionally busy start to 2022 and our staff have been absolutely fantastic, as they always are, in such difficult circumstances.
“Although we are under pressure, we are coping well and our absolute priority is the safety and wellbeing of patients. We have had to make some changes to a small number of our planned services and we are in touch directly with any patients who are directly impacted.
“Members of the public can really help us at this busy time by using services in the right way.
“Our Emergency Departments are extremely busy so please only attend if it is a serious or life threatening emergency and consider points of contact such as 111 online or your local pharmacy for advice.
“Please remember that the whole NHS is extremely busy right now so above all, please be patient and kind.
“Our staff are working tirelessly, as they have done for almost two years in managing the pandemic so, please do not abuse them.”
Dr Wahid became Medical Director at South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust in December 2015 and was appointed as the Medical Director of South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust in December 2018.
Some non-urgent routine outpatient appointments are being postponed over the next few weeks to allow medical staff to support the current pressures within both hospitals.
All patients who are impacted by these disruptions in coming weeks are being personally contacted by the Trust and health leaders are keen to reassure people all other services are running as usual.
The message to the public is: “If you are not contacted, please attend your appointment as planned.”