Hertfordshire: Health boss highlights pressures on NHS in Herts as Covid cases rise

  Posted: 17.12.20 at 10:25 by Deborah Price

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A leading health official has highlighted the pressures facing local NHS services, as Covid cases continue to rise – but urged those with ‘worrying symptoms’ still to seek help.

Just days after parts of the county were put under Tier 3 restrictions, chief executive of the Herts and West Essex ICS Jane Halpin has highlighted the current pressures on NHS services.

During the first wave of the Covid pandemic much of the ‘routine’ activity stopped – so local hospitals could focus on Covid-19 patients.

But now hospitals are treating increasing numbers of Covid patients, while continuing to offer a wide range of surgery, diagnostic procedures and mental health services.

And, says Dr Halpin, increasing activity and cases of Covid are now “stressing and stretching” NHS services.

Nevertheless – speaking at a media briefing on Wednesday (December 16) – Dr Halpin urged those with serious illnesses or ‘worrying symptoms’ to seek help.

“We do want to encourage people who really need help to come forward – whilst encouraging people who don’t have such significant illnesses to seek advice from their GPs or NHS 111 First,” she said.

The new NHS First service assesses patients before directing them elsewhere for further advice or treatment – whether that’s a pharmacist, a GP surgery or mental heath services.

But they can also book appointments for patients at Accident and Emergency departments and urgent care centres.

And although patients will still be seen at A&E if they turn up without an appointment, Dr Halpin is urging patients to use the new NHS 111 First route.

She says the service will allocate patients a ‘one hour’ slot at A&E, which will be more efficient and cut waiting times.

As a result, she says people will spend less time in an A&E waiting room.

And that means they are less likely to be exposed to any illnesses other people may be carrying at the time, whether Covid or something else.

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