SOME ‘routine planned operations’ are being cancelled at Musgrove Park Hospital – and operating theatres converted to intensive care units – as the NHS in Somerset comes under ‘sustained and increasing pressure’, according to internal documents seen by your County Gazette.
The revelations are in a document giving guidance to NHS workers about how they should answer questions from the public and the press when discussing the Covid-19 crisis.
Information in the document points to the extreme pressure the NHS is currently under in Somerset as Covid-19 cases continue to rise, including utilising theatre space freed up by cancelling operations to provide critical care for those in need.
Positions outlined in the document include:
- How the NHS in Somerset is under ‘sustained and increasing pressure due to responding to Covid-19, supporting the vaccination programme and delivering urgent and emergency care, working within the usual winter pressures’
- How the service is facing a ‘challenge’ in ‘releasing colleagues to support the response to Covid-19 and the vaccination programme’ while treating those in urgent need
- How routine operations are being cancelled ‘to free up staff and theatre space to support patients needing critical care’
- How the NHS in Somerset has ‘increased the time period between the first and second doses’ of the vaccine, in line with national recommendations
A spokesperson for the Trust said: “NHS and care services in Somerset, and our own services in Somerset FT, are very busy but coping with the pressure of high demand for services, and all our teams are working extremely hard to provide care and support for those who need us.
“At Somerset FT we are caring for more people with Covid-19 than we ever have before and have had to increase our capacity for those who need help with their breathing.
“As a result, we have adapted some of our operating theatres and are using colleagues flexibly within our services which means that we are cancelling some planned procedures over this period. We understand how upsetting this is for patients and are therefore keeping this under constant review and doing our best to keep this to a minimum. If we are making changes to your planned care we will contact you.”
The news comes as a vaccine is rolled out to vulnerable people across Somerset – although we don’t know how many have received a jab.
The spokesperson said it was understood that information may be available soon.
“We are working very hard to vaccinate people in the highest priority groups in Somerset as identified by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation in order to protect the most vulnerable in our community,” they said.
“Since the second week in January we have launched vaccinations at 16 sites in our county – 13 GP-led hubs, two hospital hubs at Yeovil District Hospital and Musgrove Park Hospital, and at Taunton Racecourse.
“We are reporting figures from all of these sites into a national dataset that is being published weekly … and will in time include county-level data.”
Meanwhile, new figures obtained by your County Gazette give an insight into just how much the pressure has increased on our NHS.
Data shows the number of Somerset NHS Foundation Trust-provided beds occupied by Covid-19 patients increased almost 10-fold between October, 2020 (7.6) and the beginning of January, 2021 (66.4).
In a joint statement, Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group, Yeovil District Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, Somerset NHS Foundation Trust and South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust, said: “The NHS in Somerset is now caring for more patients with Covid-19 than during the first wave of the pandemic.
“We are busy but coping with the pressure of high demand for services, and our teams are working extremely hard for those who need us.”
The statement urged people to abide by guidance to prevent the spread of the disease, including lockdown rules in force across the country.
“If you have an urgent medical problem, please go to the NHS 111 website or call the number, which is available 24 hours a day seven days a week,” it added.
“If someone is seriously ill or injured and their life is at risk, please call 999 for an ambulance.
“Our NHS and social care colleagues are doing an amazing job of keeping services running 24/7, and we would like to thank everyone who is working so hard during this time.”