Health and care leaders across north Cumbria are reminding the public that infection prevention measures remain in place at health and care settings, as demand for health and care services increases.

The safety measures introduced nationally have helped not only protect staff, patients and visitors over the past year, but enabled teams to continue providing many of the non-urgent services that would otherwise have been postponed.

All staff, visitors and patients are currently required to wear face coverings, socially distance and sanitise their hands before entering clinics and this will continue.

While the announcement made earlier in the week from the Government about the easing of restrictions from July 19th  will reduce and remove measures like this from everyday life, it is vital that the public can be confident about accessing or visiting local healthcare services safely.

Dr Rod Harpin, executive medical director at North Cumbria Integrated Care NHS Foundation Trust (NCIC), says that demand for health and care services has significantly increased over the last few days. He said: “Everyone who accesses health and care settings are still expected to sanitise hands, wear masks, keep socially distant and to come to their appointment alone unless they need assistance.”

This advice comes as all health and care services have seen an increase in pressure with a 16% rise in A&E attendances alone.  

Dr Harpin said: “It’s not clear why we are seeing a spike in people accessing services at the moment, but it is much busier than normal and it is reflected in other parts of the country.  The NHS is here for you but please use the right service for your needs. We are all under significant pressure but we are making sure that those most in need are seen first. Unfortunately this does mean that for some people there will be a longer wait than we would like. Please bear with us, we are doing our best.

Dr Harpin added, “Over the last few days we have experienced people who are not willing to follow the guidance.  Our job in the NHS is to keep people safe and we need you to do your bit and help us. If we ask you to follow the guidance please do this – these very simple steps really do help us manage our services more efficiently for everyone and stop the spread of the virus.

“We are currently treating very few people in our hospitals with the virus, and we need to continue to do all we can to make sure we don’t bring it in. You can have the virus and have no symptoms so we must protect each other, particularly in places where people are already sick like hospitals and care homes.”

Similar pressures are being felt in other services including primary and social care.

Workington GP Dr Niall McGreevy, said: “We know lots of people are seeking GP appointments, in fact we are seeing demand much higher than before covid. We know a lot of people have been waiting until things started to ease. A lot of people are experiencing the types of illness we see in winter as we are now starting to meet up more, and we know it is very frustrating when people can’t get an appointment as quickly as they would like.

“I want to reassure you that we are seeing people as quickly as we can, and that we are still offering advice over the phone as well as seeing people face to face and that appointments can be booked with a range of clinicians including practice nurses.”

Many primary care teams are still supporting the covid vaccine roll-out programme with members of their teams working regular additional shifts since December to ensure this has happened.

You can help by choosing the service most appropriate for your needs. This includes:

  • NHS 111 – this service provides 24 hour advice on any healthcare need
  • Pharmacy – think pharmacy first where there are trained professionals who can prescribe medicines and give advice
  • GP – for ongoing or persistent medical issues
  • Minor Injuries and Urgent Treatment centres – for urgent but not life-threatening issues
  • A&E - for life-threatening and serious emergencies only. 

The NHS is here for you if you are unwell and need advice and treatment, but please expect this increase in demand for help to mean potentially longer waits.