'Really tough' winter looms - patients urged to use services sensibly

West Suffolk Hospital will be rebuilt as part of the governments pledge to provide 40 new hospitals by 2030 Picture...

West Suffolk Hospital said it was experiencing levels of demand normally seen in the middle of winter - Credit: Archant

Hospital trusts in Suffolk and Essex are urging people to use NHS services appropriately as they gear up for a "really tough winter". 

The message comes after Amanda Pritchard, chief executive of the NHS in England, said she expects the NHS backlog to "get worse before it gets better".

Caring for half a million Covid-19 patients in hospital as well as a surge in demand for urgent and emergency care have contributed to the pressures, according to Ms Pritchard. 

She also warned that "thousands" of patients are stuck in hospital because they are waiting for social care support - which she suggested may hamper tackling the record 5.8million waiting list. 

Amanda Pritchard speaks to members of staff during a visit to University College Hospital London, fo

Amanda Pritchard, chief executive of the NHS in England, has fired a warning about the record backlog - Credit: PA

Ms Pritchard added the NHS is "facing a really tough winter" and the best thing the public could do to help was take up their vaccination invitations and still come forward if they have any worrying symptoms.

A spokesman for West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust said using services appropriately would free up staff for emergencies. 

“As is the case throughout the country, our trust is experiencing levels of demand we normally see in the middle of winter. Over the last few months we’ve seen the highest numbers of people attending our emergency department," he said. 

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“We do ask that the public help the NHS this winter by taking up the offer of a Covid-19 vaccination or booster as well as getting immunised against flu.

“While we are always here for those who need us, we do ask that residents help us through this very busy time by using NHS services appropriately – considering contacting your community pharmacy, GP surgery or NHS 111 could help avoid a long wait in A&E while freeing up our staff to support emergency cases.”

Neill Moloney, managing director and deputy chief executive at Ipswich Hospital. Picture: ANDY ABBOT

Neil Moloney, acting chief executive at ESNEFT, said the trust is 'feeling the pressure' - Credit: Archant

Neill Moloney, acting chief executive of East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust (ESNEFT), which runs Ipswich and Colchester hospitals, said: “We know there’s pressure right across the healthcare system and we are certainly feeling that in our hospitals and within our community services.

“It will be a challenging winter, but we have prepared plans to respond to the increase in demand that will help us to continue to provide safe and compassionate care for our patients.

“If anyone is seriously unwell and needs urgent or emergency care, they must come to hospital, but the best way our communities can support the NHS is to use services appropriately. If it’s not a medical emergency, call NHS 111 or go to 111.nhs.uk first."