Stay safe and protect local health and care services this Christmas

Health and care leaders have welcomed the government’s decision to keep Bath and North East Somerset, Swindon and Wiltshire under tier two restrictions, and have appealed to the public to protect under pressure services this Christmas by abiding by social distancing rules and following safety guidelines.

As local people prepare for the Christmas break and a relaxation of government Covid-19 regulations, those running local hospitals, GP surgeries and other health and care services have highlighted the importance of following rules to avoid a new year rise in coronavirus infections.

Across BSW, hospitals, GP surgeries, community care providers, local authorities, a mental health trust, an ambulance trust and voluntary sector organisations are working together as part of the BSW Integrated Care System.

Tracey Cox, Senior Responsible Officer of Bath and North East Somerset, Swindon and Wiltshire Integrated Care System and CEO of BaNES, Swindon and Wiltshire Integrated Care Board said: “While we are all looking forward to spending time with our loved ones over the Christmas period, it’s important to remember that with any increase in social contact comes increased risk, so it is important that people take personal responsibility to limit the spread of the virus and to protect their loved ones, particularly if they are vulnerable.

“Our hospitals, community hospitals and care services are already extremely busy and an increase in new Covid-19 patients during what is always a busy time for them, would only add to that pressure.”

Dr Bruce Laurence, Bath & North East Somerset Council’s Director of Public Health, said: “The coming Christmas period will bring a number of challenges and we are appealing to local people to help stop the spread of the virus.

“They can do this through simple things such as following social distancing guidelines, regularly washing hands and wearing face coverings wherever this is recommended.

“Please be very cautious about exposing older relatives or those with long term illnesses to large numbers of people, any of whom might be spreading the virus without even knowing it.

“This will protect the people we love and also the health services they depend on.”

Dr Ruth Grabham, Medical Director at Bath and North East Somerset, Swindon and Wiltshire Integrated Care Board said: “There are lots of other things people can do to help alleviate the pressure on services this winter, such as having their flu jab and making sure they use the service that is right for their health and care needs.

“During the winter, hospitals and A&E departments can get very busy – so visiting your GP, pharmacist or calling 111 can make all the difference in making sure that hospitals can treat those with serious conditions or injuries.

“Those contacting NHS 111 will be given a specific time at which to arrive at either their nearest hospital or minor injuries unit, which will help reduce crowded waiting rooms and ensure those most in need are given priority.”

Claire Williamson, Head of Psychological Therapies at Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership, said: “Christmas can be a stressful time and it is likely to be even more challenging this year because of the added pressures of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Our 24/7 telephone helpline provides support for anyone who may be worried about their own mental health or that of another person.

“If you or your loved one feels unsafe, at risk or unable to cope without professional advice, our dedicated staff will ensure that you are directed to the team best able to meet your needs.

“The number to call is 0300 303 1320.”

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