Hospital visits have been suspended in South Tyneside and Sunderland after a surge in Covid-19 cases.
With some of the highest infection rates in England, health leaders say the rate of hospitalisation in the two areas is now doubling week-on-week, with more than 80 people now in hospital with the virus – compared to just two a month ago.
Many people are seriously ill and receiving intensive care support, the South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust has said.
They have also said the regions’ GP practices, community nursing and urgent care services continue to see high levels of demand and are having to deliver many services with a reduced number of staff due to self-isolation.
A spokesperson for the trust said: “Such is the pressure on local NHS services, that health leaders have once again taken the difficult decision to suspend visiting to adult inpatient wards at South Tyneside District Hospital, Sunderland Royal Hospital and Intermediate Care Assessment and Rehabilitation (ICAR) unit based at Houghton Primary Care Centre in an effort to protect staff and patients at this critical time.
“This will come into effect from Wednesday 14 July.”
They added: “The surge in cases of Covid-19 in hospital has also coincided with a large number of staff having to self-isolate and relentless pressure on the Trust’s Emergency Departments which are seeing well in excess of 600 attendances every single day as well as pressures on GP and primary care services.”
Health bosses are pleading with people to maintain social distancing even after restrictions have been dropped.
Despite confirmation from Prime Minister Boris Johnson that national lockdown restrictions will end on 19 July, they are urging people in South Tyneside and Sunderland to keep following ‘hands, face, space and fresh air’ advice to stop the spread of the virus.
Dr Shaz Wahid, Medical Director at South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust said: “Covid-19 has not gone away and we are appealing to the public for help. The basics of hands, face and space are just as important now as they were a year ago.
“Our services both in hospital and in the community are being stretched like never before as we strive to keep the recovery of services on track whilst managing this increasing demand. It certainly feels like we are entering the most difficult period for NHS staff, after the long slog of the past year, we are now gearing up again for another wave of pressure.”
Dr Tracey Lucas is a local GP in Sunderland GP. She said: “Our message to the public is simple, please keep doing your bit to protect our NHS. Staff right across the NHS are doing their very best to make sure everyone can get the care they need.
“Just like our hospital colleagues, GPs across the region are also seeing significant pressure after radically redesigning services during the pandemic and supporting the ongoing vaccine roll out. You can really help us by using some of the newer ways of getting advice from your local pharmacy or by using self-care for minor problems.
“This is an increasingly tough time for everyone and we appreciate how difficult it can feel for the public at the moment. Above all, please be kind to our staff and each other – we are doing our very best to look after you.”
Health leaders are reminding the public:
•You must wear a facemask when entering hospitals, GP practices and other healthcare settings
•Please attend all GP and hospital appointments alone where possible
•Please regularly wash your hands and sanitise using gel
•Please maintain a social distance in all healthcare settings
•Please get the Covid-19 vaccine ASAP
•Please stay at home if you suspect you have Covid-19. Call 119 or visit www.nhs.uk for a PCR test