Health and care services in Somerset continue to be under extreme pressure

Somerset’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. 

The NHS is facing unprecedented challenges this winter. We’d like to ask people for their continuing support in accessing NHS services wisely, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues and as we enter autumn and winter. The NHS needs the public to play its part.

The NHS is here for everyone and we aim to ensure health services are available for you when you become ill, but to do this, we need everyone’s support. Please be patient and choose the right care. Get the right treatment, in the right place, at the right time.

  • If you’re unwell and unsure about where to go, visit or call NHS 111 if you have an urgent problem and you are not sure what to do. At this very busy time, your 111 call may take a little longer to answer than usual but staff will get to you as quickly as possible.
  • For ongoing or non-urgent concerns please contact your local pharmacist or GP practice.
  • Call 999 in a medical emergency. This is when someone is seriously ill or injured and their life is at risk.

James Rimmer, Chief Executive at Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group said:

“Demand for services such as GP appointments and treatment in emergency departments has risen substantially, we’re facing more challenges in discharging people home from hospital and patients are facing increasingly lengthy waits for treatment.

“A combination of increasing numbers of coronavirus cases, staff absences coupled with a surge in people wanting same-day urgent and emergency care, has resulted in hospitals, GP services and the ambulance service experiencing increased demand on their services.

“Our priorities are always those patients with the most urgent need. Calling 999 or visiting an emergency department for anything less than a genuine, life-threatening emergency takes already-stretched healthcare workers away from their sickest patients, who are most in need of urgent medical care.

“If people have minor ailments they can get advice from and the local pharmacy. Pharmacists are experts on medicines, are very knowledgeable and can advise on whether another NHS service is required. If a person’s illness does not go away after a few days or is getting worse, then they should contact their GP surgery.

“We’d like to thank people for their support. We’d also like to thank our hard-working teams who are working incredibly hard to care for those in need.”

Cllr David Huxtable, Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care at Somerset County Council said:

“We’d like to thank everyone for their help and support in these continuing challenging times for both health and social care. We’re asking families to work with us and our NHS colleagues and help get their loved one home from hospital as soon as they are safely able to do so. We’re also asking anyone who feels they are receiving care at home they no longer need, and only that they no longer need, to contact their care provider or Somerset Direct on 0300 123 2224. Staff will then review their care needs with them. This further supports us in allocating care support to those most in need in these high demand times.”

Matthew Bryant, Chief Operating Officer (hospital services) at Somerset NHS Foundation Trust and Yeovil Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, said:

“Our urgent and emergency care services at both Yeovil and Musgrove Park hospitals are under extreme pressure as we are caring for a high number of unwell patients, including an increasing number of patients with COVID-19.We also have a number of patients waiting to leave hospital due to the high demand for social care in Somerset.  This means that we have had to take the difficult decision to postpone some operations and outpatient appointments – we understand the impact this has on people and we are very sorry for this.

“We are here if you need us, but please only use our emergency departments (A&E) if it’s absolutely necessary – in an emergency or if your condition is life-threatening. If you are not in the right place, you are likely to have a long wait to be seen or you may be redirected to a more appropriate service.

“We know that most other services are also busy. Please help us by choosing the right healthcare services for your needs, including NHS 111, your local pharmacist, GP practice or self-care where possible if it’s not an emergency.

“Staff across the NHS in Somerset are working incredibly hard to meet this demand and provide the best care we can and we are sorry for the delays we know people are experiencing at the current time. We know the delays are frustrating but please continue to treat our staff with kindness and respect.”

We need your help – here’s what you can do to support your local services:

  • Keep the Emergency Department for emergencies. If your condition isn’t an emergency, choose a different service. You may have to be prepared to wait a bit longer for treatment if it isn’t urgent. Find out more about when to call 999 and when to go to A&E.
  • Use your local pharmacist for minor conditions such as earache, skin rashes.
  • Keeping a well-stocked medicines cabinet helps to deal with many common illnesses and injuries that can be treated at home – talk to your pharmacist about remedies.
  • Use the HANDi paediatric app for advice on common childhood illnesses.
  • Use 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.
  • Take a look at our winter campaign pages for tips on how to stay well this winter.
  • Get your COVID-19 vaccination and have both jabs if you’re eligible.
  • Families with loved ones in hospital are being asked to collect their relatives as soon as they have been told they are able to go home, as doing so means more beds are available for newer patients in urgent need of admission.
  • If you are receiving care at home that you think you no longer need, please contact your care provider or Adult Social Care so staff can review your care needs. This will support us to make sure care is allocated to help someone else to remain in their own home or leave hospital with the right support.

To find out which service is most relevant for your needs please take a look at our choose well webpage. Choosing the right service will ensure you receive the best possible treatment, allowing busy services like hospital Emergency Departments (A&E) to concentrate on helping those most in need.