Health leaders across Suffolk and north east Essex are urging the public to help the NHS by using the right service and to get fully vaccinated against the dual threat of Covid and flu ahead of what is believed to be an unprecedently tough winter.
Clinicians say admissions to hospitals have significantly increased in recent days – with the sickest patients being those individuals who are unvaccinated against Covid.
There has also been a big rise in the number of people attending local A&E departments for non-life threatening conditions.
Leaders say patients should continue to come forward for care and to speak to a pharmacist, GP or call 111 if they need urgent advice as soon as they feel unwell.
NHS 111 online can also direct patients to urgent treatment centres and walk in clinics, GP surgeries, pharmacies and emergency dental services and, if needed, a call from a healthcare professional.
The online tool can also advise whether a patient should contact their GP, visit a pharmacist or call 999, while if needed, people can receive a call from a healthcare professional.
Neill Moloney, Acting Chief Executive of East Suffolk and North Essex Foundation NHS Trust, which runs Ipswich and Colchester hospitals, said: “These are not normal winter pressures – we are not usually in this position with this level of demand in early November.
“We have also not seen the impact of flu yet and this is what normally causes our escalation. This gives me significant cause for concern.
“The number of people we are treating in hospital is increasing and is impacting on our ability to manage all of the patients that we would like to.
“Those patients who are sickest are unvaccinated against Covid.
“Please get your flu and Covid vaccinations if you have not done so already and help us at this critical time.”
Craig Black, Chief Executive at West Suffolk Hospital Foundation Trust, said: “Our hard-working teams of staff and volunteers across the system continue to provide the best service they can for local people.
“We need to ensure their health and wellbeing are taken care of too.
“Please take on board these messages concerning the correct use of services and look out for each other, especially during these winter months ahead.
“Our hospitals are extremely busy but if people get their vaccinations and use services wisely, we can get through this together.”
Stuart Keeble, Director of Public Health at Suffolk County Council, said: “The best way you can protect yourself this winter is to get fully vaccinated against Covid and flu.
“If you are eligible, I would strongly encourage you to take up the offer of a Covid booster, flu jab or both as soon as possible.
“Likewise, if you have not received your first or second dose vaccination it is still not too late.
Danny Showell, Public Health Consultant at Essex County Council, added: “If you are still unsure about having your Covid vaccination, please do visit official websites that contain reliable and accurate sources of information.
“Across Suffolk and north east Essex, we have conducted a lot of work to answer public questions and address local concerns.
“Please visit one of the walk in clinics for your Covid vaccination and arrange for a flu jab at your local GP or pharmacy.
“Every one of us has a role to play in helping the NHS this winter by getting vaccinated and using services in the right way.”
The Covid walk in clinics are listed daily on the Suffolk and North East Essex Vaccination Service website – www.sneevaccine.org.uk.
The website also has further details about staying well this winter.