'Think carefully about your Christmas plans' - Suffolk health chiefs issue plea to county

Nick Hulme, chief executive of ESNEFT, said the trust is prepared for the winter Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Nick Hulme, chief executive of ESNEFT, has joined others in pleading for people to consider their Christmas plans - Credit: Archant

Health chiefs from across Suffolk have united to urge families to consider their Christmas plans carefully amid rising coronavirus cases in the county.

An open letter, written by executives at Ipswich and Colchester hospitals, West Suffolk Hospital, the county's NHS clinical commissioning groups, GP federation and others, details the worsening situation in Suffolk and the impact on hospital capacity. 

Suffolk coronavirus cases: Dr Stephen Dunn, chief executive of West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, sa

Dr Stephen Dunn, chief executive of West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust - Credit: Archant

They wrote: "With the world facing its biggest health emergency in living memory, we have come together to speak to you jointly in a way that we have never done so before.

"Today, as we address you with frankness and honesty, we ask of you one thing – that you think very carefully about your Christmas plans.

"The emergence of Covid-19 has confronted our National Health Service and its partners with its biggest challenge for generations.


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"Our health and social care colleagues have risen admirably to meet that challenge and continue to do so, despite the incredible strain the virus has placed upon our staff and resources.

"However, this is not a quick win situation. Despite this incredible hard work, infection rates continue to rise and this Christmas – let’s be candid – we have a monumental challenge on our hands. A challenge that can only be won by each of us making further sacrifice."

Jonathan Warren, chief executive at Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust (NSFT), took up post in Apr

Jonathan Warren, chief executive at Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust (NSFT) - Credit: Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation T

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As it stands, the seven-day infection rate in Suffolk stands at 112 cases per 100,000. That figure is triple the number recorded in October at 35 cases per 100,000, while the figure at the beginning September was only 5.

In an attempt to combat the spread of the virus further, the health chiefs have asked for people to carefully consider who they choose to form a Christmas bubble with – and to ensure they stick to it.

The relaxed bubble rules mean that people from no more than three households can meet indoors from December 23 to December 27.

Stuart Keeble, director of public health for Suffolk, said people needed to be sensible when meeting

Stuart Keeble, director of public health for Suffolk, said people needed to be sensible when meeting with others - Credit: Archant

The letter continued: "Sadly, we no longer have the capacity to lower our guard or lessen our resolve over the festive period. We must continue to live with caution and follow guidance fully.

"We therefore ask that you think carefully about your Christmas plans. We know that one of the best ways to fight this virus is to limit contact with other people, so we ask that you choose your Christmas bubble wisely and stick with that bubble.

"We also ask that you think twice before seeing your elderly or vulnerable relatives. This is on top of those things we already do well, such as washing hands, wearing a mask and social distancing.

"We do not offer this advice lightly – Christmas gatherings are, of course, very special and personal celebrations. However, this is an extraordinary year. We know our health and care services would be under significant pressure if cases continue to rise in January.

"Our message today is clear – Suffolk needs you. It needs you to make the right choice this Christmas and live within the guidelines."

Dr Angela Tillett, medical director at Ipswich and Colchester hospitals Picture: ESNEFT

Dr Angela Tillett from the East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust also signed the letter - Credit: Archant

The letter in full:

Dear all,

With the world facing its biggest health emergency in living memory, we have come together to speak to you jointly in a way that we have never done so before. Today, as we address you with frankness and honesty, we ask of you one thing – that you think very carefully about your Christmas plans.

The emergence of Covid-19 has confronted our National Health Service and its partners with its biggest challenge for generations. Our health and social care colleagues have risen admirably to meet that challenge and continue to do so, despite the incredible strain the virus has placed upon our staff and resources.

However, this is not a quick win situation. Despite this incredible hard work, infection rates continue to rise and this Christmas – let’s be candid - we have a monumental challenge on our hands. A challenge that can only be won by each of us making further sacrifice.

Our current infection rate (112 cases per 100,000 people) is triple where we found ourselves in October (35 cases per 100,000 people). At the beginning of September, there were just 5 cases per 100,000 people. If this current trajectory continues, there will be a significant impact and the situation will go on for much longer.

Sadly, we no longer have the capacity to lower our guard or lessen our resolve over the festive period. We must continue to live with caution and follow guidance fully. We therefore ask that you think carefully about your Christmas plans. We know that one of the best ways to fight this virus is to limit contact with other people, so we ask that you choose your Christmas bubble wisely and stick with that bubble. We also ask that you think twice before seeing your elderly or vulnerable relatives. This is on top of those things we already do well, such as washing hands, wearing a mask and social distancing.

We do not offer this advice lightly – Christmas gatherings are, of course, very special and personal celebrations. However, this is an extraordinary year. We know our health and care services would be under significant pressure if cases continue to rise in January.

Our message today is clear - Suffolk needs you. It needs you to make the right choice this Christmas and live within the guidelines.

Thank you.

Dr Barbara Gale, chief executive of St Nicholas Hospice Care, has been made an MBE in recognition of

Barbara Gale of St Nicholas Hospice - Credit: Archant

Signed by:

East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust

Nick Hulme, Chief Executive

Dr Angela Tillett, Chief Medical Officer

West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust

Dr Stephen Dunn CBE, Chief Executive

Dr Nick Jenkins, Medical Director

Clinical Commissioning Groups covering Suffolk

Dr Ed Garratt, Chief Executive, Ipswich & East Suffolk CCG, West Suffolk CCG and North East Essex CCG

Melanie Craig, Chief Executive, NHS Norfolk and Waveney CCG

Dr Mark Shenton, Chair of Ipswich and East CCG

Dr Christopher Browning, Chair of the West Suffolk CCG

Suffolk GP Federation

David Pannell, Chief Executive

Dr Ruth Bushaway, Medical Director

Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust

Jonathan Warren, Chief Executive

Dr Daniel Dalton, Chief Medical Officer

Healthwatch Suffolk

Andy Yacoub

Suffolk County Council

Stuart Keeble, Director of Public Health

Sue Cook, Director of People’s Services

St Elizabeth Hospice

Kelvin Bengtson, Medical Director

St Nicholas Hospice

Barbara Gale, Chief Executive

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