Devon’s health and care system under extreme pressure

ways to help the NHS

Published: 8 October 2021

Devon’s health and social care system is under extreme pressure due to high demand for services, sustained demand for Covid beds, pressure on staffing and the need for social care exceeding the available capacity.

Pressures are being seen across the system, in mental health care, primary care (GPs) and adult social care as well as our acute hospital trusts. 

Dr Paul Johnson, Chair of NHS Devon Clinical Commissioning Group said: “We really need you to support us. Please ask yourself whether you have a genuine life-threatening emergency before attending an Emergency Department (ED). If you are not in the right place, you may be redirected to a more appropriate service. This is because we need to safely prioritise those with the most urgent need.

“We are also asking people to pick up friends or relatives as soon as they are well enough to be discharged from hospital. This frees up beds for other patients who need them.

“Finally, we are seeing high numbers of children coming to hospital. There is a really useful HANDi paediatric app for advice on common childhood illnesses and when to seek help.”

There are other ways people can support services. These include:

  • Use your local pharmacist for minor conditions such as insect bites, skin rashes, coughs, colds, sore throats, tummy trouble and aches and pains.
  • Using NHS 111 – online or by phone if you need advice or medical treatment quickly and can’t wait to see your GP. If you need to be seen by a Minor Injuries or Emergency Department they can book you in.
  • Getting vaccinated against Covid-19. Have both jabs and your booster if you are eligible
  • Staying away from hospitals if you have Covid symptoms, or diarrhoea and vomiting

Other causes of pressure include some people using ED inappropriately, high numbers of staff off work due to Covid or other reasons and a high number of vacancies in the current competitive jobs market. The enhanced infection prevention and control measures that were implemented during the height of the pandemic have been reduced to some extent, but are still higher than before the pandemic and mean we can treat fewer people in the same time period than in normal times.

The NHS is working hard to address pressures across the system by promoting the most appropriate places to seek medical help, vaccinating people against Covid-19 and through staff working long hours and extra shifts.

Longer term measures include recruiting more staff and creating extra capacity with new theatres and diagnostic facilities in Plymouth and at the former NHS Nightingale hospital in Exeter.