The NHS in Derby and Derbyshire is bracing itself for a challenging autumn and asking the public to help, beginning with the August Bank Holiday weekend as health services cope with unprecedented challenges.
The region's two largest hospitals, Royal Derby Hospital and Chesterfield Royal, are both close to capacity and facing heavy demand in A&E departments. GP practices are putting on more appointments than ever, and the NHS111 system is also extremely busy.
The NHS is seeing an increase in demand for services, coupled with an increase in staff absence through illness, self-isolation or leave.
The NHS continues to ask patients to self-care where this is a safe option or visit a pharmacy to ask for advice on minor concerns. NHS 111 can provide quick advice if you cannot wait for a GP appointment and can also provide appointment slots for Urgent Treatment Centres and A&E if required for more serious concerns.
Help hospitals to discharge loved ones
Both hospitals have high numbers of inpatients currently, so it’s important that we discharge those who no longer need a hospital bed in a timely way. This releases beds for those needing an emergency admission through our A&E Departments and Assessment Units.
It is important that family members work with hospital and adult care staff by preparing for a relative returning from a stay in hospital or other care facility. This enables the hospitals to discharge patients smoothly and create space quickly for the next patient.
This will be particularly important heading into this weekend. We will need to discharge patients as soon as it is clinically safe to do so, even when ideally patients and families might prefer them to stay a little longer. This is to ensure we can continue to use our hospital beds to care for the most poorly patients. We appreciate this might mean families need to provide some extra help for loved ones. This will also reduce the demand on community services staff to allow them to still provide essential support where needed.
Help yourself to help the NHS
It is important that people ensure they get their repeat prescriptions in good time from their GP or pharmacist, to help avoid illness over the weekend.
People should consider self-care as the first option, using a local pharmacy for advice and basic medication. NHS 111 online is also great to help with symptom checking and advice on which service to consider using. The health service is complicated, and NHS 111 online can help you navigate it effectively.
Come forward if you are concerned about your health
The health service is still here to help care for people who are concerned about symptoms that may point to an illness such as cancer. By coming forward when you have serious concerns, you will help staff to diagnose any illnesses and start treatment quickly where necessary.
GPs provided 12.2% more appointments in June than they did just two years ago, including a 29.9% increase in appointments booked the same day. These appointments are for people who do have serious health concerns, and can be done face-to-face, by video or over the telephone.
University Hospitals of Derby and Burton NHS Foundation Trust Chief Executive Gavin Boyle, who is also Chair of the Derbyshire-wide A&E Delivery Board, said it was vital that everybody step up to do their bit to help the NHS: "Staff and volunteers all across Derby and Derbyshire are working incredibly hard to deliver care to many thousands of people, but that system is under severe pressure right now.
"We do get good support from the public, and we're asking that this continues but with some extra involvement, especially around help with hospital discharge. Getting patients home when they are ready is better for those patients, and it frees up urgently needed hospital beds for those who are most unwell.
"We have seen people thinking more about which services they need to access, which helps a lot, but we still need to reduce the number of people attending A&E or making GP appointments when they could use more appropriate services.
"I want to thank the public for their support during the pandemic, and ask that people continue to think about how they can help."
August Bank Holiday details
Most doctors’ surgeries will be closed on Bank Holiday Monday, but the usual out of hours bank holiday arrangements will be in place to make sure NHS support is there for people needing it.
Pharmacy opening times across Derby and Derbyshire are available at https://www.england.nhs.uk/midlands/nhs-england-and-nhs-improvement-midlands-work/bank-holiday-pharmacy-opening-times/ and more information about your nearest pharmacy can be found at www.nhs.uk/service-search/find-a-pharmacy/.
NHS 111 can help you either online or by telephone, and you can call your GP surgery to hear details of what you should do if you need medical help. This will include the important reminder that if you have a medical emergency, such as a suspected heart attack, stroke, or other serious life-threatening condition, to call 999.