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Coronavirus: King's Lynn hospital boss pleads for 'small, local and limited' Christmas as patient numbers double first peak

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The boss of Lynn's Queen Elizabeth Hospital has pleaded for people to keep their Christmas celebrations "small, local and limited" amid the growing pressure of demand on services.

Chief executive Caroline Shaw has today issued an open letter warning there are now nearly twice as many Covid patients at the QEH than in the peak of the first wave.

And that comes as the county's leading public health official predicted the county is likely to face even tighter restrictions soon.

King's Lynn's Queen Elizabeth Hospital (43674993)
King's Lynn's Queen Elizabeth Hospital (43674993)

Mrs Shaw apologised for delays in communication with families, which she said were due to the level of need related both to Covid-19 and other conditions.

She wrote: "Unlike the first wave, where we saw a reduction in patients attending for ‘usual’ illnesses, this time demand for heart attack, stroke, trauma, cancer and emergency surgery remains at pre COVID-19 levels.

"This is compounded by the fact that we now have nearly double the number of COVID-19 patients in our hospital compared to the peak in wave one."

Queen Elizabeth Hospital CEO Caroline Shaw.. (34428044)
Queen Elizabeth Hospital CEO Caroline Shaw.. (34428044)

Although the letter did not give specific figures, it is understood there are 150 Covid patients currently being treated at the QEH, and more than 350 across Norfolk's hospitals.

Mrs Shaw said: "As ever, we are here for you if you are feeling unwell and you should continue to come to hospital if you need us.

"However, to support us, and ensure that everyone who needs our help this winter can get it we are asking you to make sure you pick the right service for you."

The letter said patients should attend the emergency department for issues such as loss of consciousness, fits, chest pain, breathing difficulties, severe bleeding, allergic reactions, burns or scalds, stroke or major trauma.

Dr Louise Smith, director of Norfolk Public Health. (35978505)
Dr Louise Smith, director of Norfolk Public Health. (35978505)

Advice for urgent care is also available via NHS 111, Mrs Shaw wrote, while GPs were best placed to provide help with non-urgent or ongoing concerns.

Patients have also been urged to make sure repeat prescriptions are ordered ahead of the holiday period.

Mrs Shaw added: "As we head into the festive season, I am calling on your support again.

"It’s so important that everyone continues to follow the Government guidance on keeping Christmas gatherings small, local and limited.

"This is the best Christmas present you can give to QEH and our staff that will ensure we can provide the very best care over the rest of the winter period and help reduce the spread of COVID-19.

"Please continue to wash your hands regularly, make space and wear a face mask – again these simple things will truly help us get through a busy winter.

"Finally, please bear with us as our staff continue to work incredibly hard through the toughest winter I have seen in my NHS career, knowing that there are brighter days ahead as vaccines continue to roll-out.

"These rules we are asking you to live by won’t last forever but they will help support your local hospital and our staff as we continue to battle this awful virus."

Latest figures show there were 322 confirmed coronavirus cases in West Norfolk during the seven days to last Thursday, December 17, an increase of 127 on the previous week.

That means the borough has a rolling rate of 212.7 per 100,000 people, which is slightly above average. Case numbers are rising in all districts of the county.

And Dr Louise Smith, the county's director of public health, says it is "highly likely" that Norfolk will face tougher restrictions when the current tiers are reviewed next Wednesday, December 30.

At present, Norfolk is in tier two, where pubs can open if they are serving food, the rule of six is in operation outside and restricted crowds are allowed at sporting fixtures.

But Dr Smith says she expects case numbers to continue rising in the coming days, adding that "it seems highly likely we could be thinking about when we will be going up into a higher tier."

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