Media Release

An open letter to our local community, our patients and their families

To our local community, our patients and their families,

We know many of you have been in touch recently about delays you have experienced or where we haven’t been as timely in our communication as we should have been. Like most other hospitals across the country we are experiencing very high levels of demand on our services as COVID-19 infections continue to rise alongside our normal winter pressures.

Unlike the first wave, where we saw a reduction in patients attending for ‘usual’ illnesses, this time demand for heart attack, stroke, trauma, cancer and emergency surgery remains at pre COVID-19 levels.  This is compounded by the fact that we now have nearly double the number of COVID-19 patients in our hospital compared to the peak in wave one.

As ever, we are here for you if you are feeling unwell and you should continue to come to hospital if you need us. However, to support us, and ensure that everyone who needs our help this winter can get it we are asking you to make sure you pick the right service for you:

  • For genuine emergencies such as loss of consciousness, fits, chest pain, breathing difficulties, severe bleeding, allergic reactions, burns or scalds, stroke or major trauma you should attend our Emergency Department.
  • If you need urgent care but you are not sure where to go, call NHS 111 they will be able to advise the best place for you to access the care you need.
  • For non-urgent or ongoing concerns, your GP is the best port of call and your local pharmacists can also provide medication and support.
  • Please remember to get your repeat prescriptions ahead of the Christmas and holiday period.

As demand for our other services beyond COVID-19 demand remains high, we cannot pause other patient services or re-deploy staff like we did in the spring. Our challenges are greater this time round because as we test more of our staff, more of them are testing positive, resulting in more staff needing to self-isolate. This means that our staff are even busier and under lots of pressure as they strive to deliver the highest possible patient care to you and this has on occasion resulted is us not communicating with you as we should. We are sorry for this and please rest assured we are doing everything we can to improve in this area. If you can’t get through to our wards first time when you call, we know this isn’t ideal or the service we would want to deliver, but our staff will continue to do all they can to ensure you are kept updated regularly about the condition of your relatives/loved ones, knowing how worried and anxious you are feeling.

It isn’t just the differences we are seeing within the hospital that is putting pressure on our Trust – the outside world approach to COVID-19 has also changed. In wave one everyone in our local community and beyond accepted and understood the pressures the Trust was under and your support was invaluable.

As we head into the festive season, I am calling on your support again. It’s so important that everyone continues to follow the Government guidance on keeping Christmas gatherings small, local and limited. This is the best Christmas present you can give to QEH and our staff that will ensure we can provide the very best care over the rest of the winter period and help reduce the spread of COVID-19. Please continue to wash your hands regularly, make space and wear a face mask – again these simple things will truly help us get through a busy winter. Finally, please bear with us as our staff continue to work incredibly hard through the toughest winter I have seen in my NHS career, knowing that there are brighter days ahead as vaccines continue to roll-out. These rules we are asking you to live by won’t last forever but they will help support your local hospital and our staff as we continue to battle this awful virus.

Thank you in advance for your help and support – Christmas and New Year will be different this year but you will be in my thoughts.

Best wishes,

Caroline Shaw CBE