Published on: 6 January 2022
Health leaders at South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust have praised the heroic efforts of its staff as services come under increasing pressure amidst one the most challenging starts to a New Year ever seen.
Over the past two weeks and throughout the height of the festive period, the Trust has seen a surge in cases of COVID-19 going from 27 cases in hospital on Thursday 23 December to 129 cases as of today Thursday 6 January – over a 350% increase.
The situation reflects the extremely high transmission of the Omicron variant and the amount of ‘incidental’ COVID-19 being detected amongst patients who need emergency hospital care for other reasons, but who are then also found to have COVID-19 through the Trust’s robust swabbing procedures on admission.
Like all parts of the NHS, the Trust has also been impacted by staffing challenges with over 10% of the workforce currently unavailable due to the impact of COVID-19 and loss of staff through illness and self-isolation.
Despite the immensely challenging situation, Trust leaders are reassuring patients and members of the public that local NHS services are still here when they need them, but warn of some disruption to planned services over the coming weeks.
The Trust has already taken a number of steps to support the current pressures including redeployment of some corporate staff to support frontline colleagues and the suspension of visiting to all adult inpatient wards to help prevent the spread of infection. Other steps being taken include:
All patients who are impacted by these disruptions in coming weeks are being personally contacted by the Trust and health leaders are keen to reassure people that all other services are running as usual.
If you are not contacted please attend your appointment as planned.
Dr Shahid Wahid, Executive Medical Director at South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust said: “It has been an exceptionally busy start to 2022 and our staff have been absolutely fantastic, as they always are, in such difficult circumstances.
“Although we are 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 of our planned services and we are in touch directly with any patients who are directly impacted.
“Members of the public can really help us at this busy time 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 points of contact such as 111 online or your local pharmacy for advice.
“Please remember that the whole NHS is extremely busy right now so above all, please be patient and kind.
"Our staff are working tirelessly, as they have done for almost two years in managing the pandemic so please do not abuse them.”