Hospital chief reiterates ‘stay home’ message before expected lockdown easing
- Credit: Rachel Edge
The chief executive of Ipswich and Colchester hospitals says coronavirus measures could be around for “several years”, as he called on the public to continue staying home ahead of the expected lockdown easing.
Nick Hulme, chief executive of East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust, made the call on Thursday in a bid to ensure the great steps made in terms of combatting the virus are not undone.
His words come as Prime Minister Boris Johnson is due set to announce an easing of lockdown measures during a planned address on Sunday.
Despite saying his hospitals have coped well under coronavirus pressure, Mr Hulme said the virus is likely to have changed the NHS “forever” and he fears returning to normality too soon could create a devastating second surge for the NHS.
Mr Hulme said: “Thankfully the East of England and the country as a whole hasn’t seen the numbers originally expected.
“The NHS has coped very well – we as a trust have never had to turn a patient away.
“The NHS will probably never be the same again as people will always be thinking about the virus – It is probable we may have to implement policies like social distancing in waiting rooms and staff wearing PPE during appointments for a long time.
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“Things could continue for several months – or indeed several years.”
Mr Hulme added people should continue following the government’s “Stay Home, Protect the NHS, Save Lives” message.
He added: “For the most part, I think people have heeded government lockdown guidelines very well, although I have noticed a lot more cars on the road recently on my way to and from work.
“Who would want to be a politician at the moment? They are having to deal with a dilemma of a long and hard recession alongside the risks of further deaths due to Covid-19.
“I think on Sunday we will see some very minor reliefs of social distancing rules – but I hope the government will only be acting on the science and will make the right decision.”
A government spokesman said Mr Johnson will act with “maximum caution” when considering easing lockdown measures, adding the Prime Minister will not implement any decisions that risk a second peak.
Mr Hulme said a 69% drop in cancer referrals was concerning, and stressed those who see changes in their health should see their GP as normal.
He added: “We are not overrun with patients. I know there is an understandable fear but the risk of contracting the virus in hospital is no greater than it is in the community.
“The chances of surviving cancer are much higher for those who come and get seen early.
“There is a risk we could be facing two issues in having a higher amount of cancer patients as well as the existing coronavirus patients.
“We need to change this and we need to do this quickly.”
Hospitals remain open
Patients have been reminded that hospitals in the region remain open as usual after seeing a ‘significant’ decline in emergency admissions.
Mr Hulme said people should not be afraid to visit the hospitals in the event of an emergency at home, stressing both emergency departments have segregated areas for suspected Covid-19 patients.
Mr Hulme said: “I have spent the last 20 years of my career discouraging people from coming to A&E, but I have now turned a full 180 degrees to urge people to come and see us.
“There is no immediate solution to this virus and it will be here for a very long time, but we are here to treat you.”
Mr Hulme added both hospitals continue to have enough personal protective equipment (PPE) to protect staff and patients from the virus, having never been stuck in a “critical” situation in terms of supply despite news of national shortages.