The NHS in Devon is expecting to be very busy in January due to a predicted surge in Omicron cases, peaking in mid-January.
Even with very high vaccination uptake in our patients and staff, the spread of COVID-19 is already having a significant impact on NHS staff absences and this is likely to become worse. This will further impact on staffing and will cause more disruption to wider health and services.
Every additional person with COVID-19 impacts on the ability for the NHS to carry out other important work. For every inpatient in hospital with COVID-19, on average more than eight other operations are postponed.
To prepare for this surge in January and the impact on staffing, in Torridge our GP practices are:
- Reducing non-urgent work, for example routine check-ups, routine monitoring, minor surgery, sick notes
- Starting each consultation with a telephone call or online consultation first. We need to limit exposure for both patients and staff but anyone who needs to be seen face-to-face patient contact will be where it’s safe to do
- Limiting the staff working in our buildings to reduce the risk of outbreaks, along with regular staff testing
- Strictly applying infection control precautions such as masks, ventilation, social distancing, and hand sanitiser
By ensuring these measures are in place, we will keep general practice open and therefore support our local hospitals, ambulances and out of hours services.
If we find that despite these measures some individual GP practices cannot open for a short period of time, then neighbouring GP practices in our area will support each other to ensure we can still ensure patients have access to GPs when it’s urgent in our area.
Our practice will review the suitability of these arrangements each week as we learn more about the impact of Omicron on NHS services in Devon.
How can you help?
- Please be patient and kind to our staff who are working under extreme pressure
- Get your COVID-19 booster vaccination as soon as possible if you haven’t already. Many people in intensive care units in Devon are young and unvaccinated.
- Continue to follow national guidance about wearing face coverings, social distancing and any other restrictions that are in place
The above message was drafted just before Christmas as we made plans to cope with upcoming demand.
Omicron is already having an impact in Hartland, with Dr Ruth Tapsell working from home this last week due to COVID identifed on Lateral Flow Test on Wed 29 Dec 2021, thankfully a mild illness, she had 3 COVID jabs. Dr Sam Tapsell is testing before work each day: 3 Jabs plus previous COVID seems to be keeping the infection away.
Even with high vaccine uptake, you have a high chance (perhaps more than half) of catching omicron if you come into contact, and so having all the vaccine protection onboard is very important for the next couple of months – please get boosted and keep Torridge at the very bottom of the national infection numbers!