Jill FosterThe Chief Nurse at North Cumbria Integrated Care NHS Foundation Trust has praised her colleagues for their support in dealing with significant pressure from multiple challenges over Christmas and the New Year to ensure local people received the best possible care.

Over the past few weeks and throughout the height of the festive period, the Trust has seen a rapid surge in cases of COVID-19 going from four cases in hospitals on Thursday 23rd December to over 100 cases as of today Tuesday 11th January.  Although there are larger numbers of patients in hospital, some of these are ‘incidental’ cases where people have tested positive for COVID-19 when coming into hospital for reasons not related to COVID-19.  This adds further complications in relation to infection prevention.

The spread of COVID-19 in the community means that the Trust’s community staff are supporting far more people in their homes as well, helping ensure patients avoid hospital admissions. Because of the rapid increase across the county the Trust has had to deal with its own staffing challenges with over 10% of the workforce being absent of which 6% are COVID-19 related.  Hospital staff are also caring for a large number of people in hospital who are ready to be discharged, but are not able to be as they are waiting for care packages in the community.

Jill Foster, Chief Nurse at North Cumbria Integrated Care NHS Foundation Trust said: “Our staff have faced a unique set of challenges over the extended holiday period in an already busy healthcare system. 

“Despite this, they have been flexible, adaptable and worked exceptionally hard 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to do as much as they possibly can to maintain services locally for people in north Cumbria.

“I extend my heartfelt thanks to everyone across the Trust who has made this happen. I know it hasn’t been easy; but I know how grateful our patients are to you all and I know what an enormous difference you are making to thousands of people across the county, whether in their homes or in our hospitals.” 

The Trust has an ambitious programme of work to clear waiting lists for patients who have been waiting a long time for planned surgery and other procedures, and has managed to keep those going throughout the holiday period.

Jill added: “Although we are still 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 our planned services and we are in touch directly with any patients who are directly affected. 

“It’s been a tough start to the year, but with the dedication and expertise of our staff, I’m confident the plans we have in place will help us keep people safe and  further improve and reduce those waiting lists for our patients.

“Members of the public can really help 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 using 111 online or your local pharmacy first for advice. 

“Please remember that health and care services are all extremely busy at the moment so above all, please be patient and kind.”

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