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28 October 2020

NHS heroes need your support to manage COVID -19 second wave

Staff at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals are asking the public to support them once again as a second surge of COVID-19 cases being cared for in the City’s hospitals threatens to reach similar levels as six months ago.

At the peak of the first wave in April, Sheffield Teaching Hospitals teams were caring for just under 300 people at the Northern General and Royal Hallamshire Hospitals with around 35 in ITU. In recent weeks the number has steadily increased from a low of 20 in August back up to around 245 patients and 15 in ITU.

Kirsten Major, Chief Executive at the Trust explains:

We are prepared for this second increase in cases of COVID-19 patients but we do need everyone to help us limit the spreads of this awful virus to try and halt the increase in cases coming in. We have ITU capacity, PPE stocks and of course we have the benefit of learning from the first wave and we have more treatments available to us to help patients. We are continually monitoring the situation and responding by bringing in different elements of our plans, this is something we are used to doing when managing surges in demand each winter.

What is very different this time to Wave 1 is that we are also trying to provide as much non Covid-19 care as we can, where it is safe and appropriate to do so. In reality this means that we have an additional 500 non COVID-19 patients in our hospitals today than we did in Wave 1 when all hospitals were asked to cancel planned operations. Our teams are working exceptionally hard to try and keep planned operations and care going, however no one should underestimate how complex this is given we have to ensure we keep COVID and non COVID patients separate and we also have an increase in demand through A&E which we did not have in Wave 1.

We are also very mindful of the demands we are placing on our 18,000 staff now and in the coming months given this is the second time they have dealt with a surge in Covid-19 cases, planned care is also continuing and we have the normal pressures of Winter and Flu to come still. We have been very fortunate that we have had very low levels of staff absence during the pandemic, due in part to our staff testing service, but we are currently seeing an increase (5%) due partly to staff needing leave to care for children who are self-isolating and not in school or as a consequence of the higher prevalence of the virus in the community. We have plans in place to manage this situation to ensure patients continue to receive the care they need but again the less COVID cases we have coming in, means the less demands on staff during this time.

In summary we have the plans, commitment and amazing people geared up to deliver as much care as possible but we need local people to help us too. We are asking for the support of everyone in our local communities to try and contain the spread of the virus because the fewer patients we have in hospital with Covid-19, the more capacity we have to continue routine care. Following the rules does really make the difference. Everyone across the city and beyond was so supportive of our staff during the first wave of this dreadful pandemic and we need that same level of support now to help us, help you and your loved ones. Please take this virus seriously and play your part by:

• Limiting the chances of spreading the virus to others. Wash hands, wear a face covering, keep your distance from others and follow the Tier 3 rules

• Attend appointments and operations as planned unless informed otherwise

• Speaking to your GP if you are worried about a symptom that could be cancer or another serious illness.

• Only use Accident and Emergency if you have an emergency. For all other circumstances you can get advice from NHS 111 or look on the website which has waiting times, opening times and other useful information on where is the best place to get care.

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