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West Suffolk Hospital's Craig Black explains some of the pressures the hospital is facing

You would have seen that at the end of last month, we took the very difficult decision to suspend almost all visiting at our sites for three weeks. Due to the high rates of Covid-19 in Suffolk, we took this decision in tandem with our colleagues at Ipswich hospital as the best way to help limit the spread while protecting both our patients and staff.

Please be assured we are continually reviewing these restrictions.

I know that this would have been very difficult news for a lot of people who are either in hospital or have a loved-one in our care and I want to thank everyone for their patience and understanding.

Craig Black, interim chief executive of West Suffolk Hospital NHS Trust. Picture by West Suffolk Hospital.
Craig Black, interim chief executive of West Suffolk Hospital NHS Trust. Picture by West Suffolk Hospital.

To help families keep up to date with how their loved ones are while they’re in one of our hospitals, West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust operates a dedicated clinical helpline. We also run our ‘Keeping in Touch’ service which helps connect family via video calls if patients don’t have access to digital devices.

Despite it only being November, we are experiencing levels of demand at our trust we normally only see in the depth of winter and over the last few months we’ve seen the highest numbers of people attending our emergency department.

While we are always here for those who need us, I do ask that you help us through this very busy

time by using NHS services appropriately – considering contacting your community pharmacy, GP surgery or NHS 111 could help avoid a long wait in A&E while freeing up our staff to support emergency cases.

Away from the emergency department, we are continuing to adapt our services to ease the backlog created by the Covid-19 pandemic. We are working very closely with healthcare partners across the county to ensure residents of west Suffolk receive the care they require, including offering earlier appointments in other locations and working with Abbeycroft Leisure to offer services that aim to improve people’s health and fitness in preparation for surgery.

Last year we announced that Hardwick Manor was our preferred site for a new hospital to replace the West Suffolk site and this month we have started engagement sessions with the general public to hear your views on the new hospital.

A series of Covid-19 secure face-to-face events have been arranged throughout November and December and I encourage you to take the opportunity to give your opinion if you are able to attend. Locations are all across the county as well as a virtual meeting being held on November 22 if you’re unable to physically attend anywhere. Please head over to our website at www.wsh.nhs.uk to find out more.

As hard as it is to believe, Christmas is just around the corner. I’m sure you all remember how difficult last year was when we had to go through most or all of the festive period being away from the people we love due to lockdown restrictions, so this year many of us will be eager to see more people than ever to celebrate.

So we can all have a safe and enjoyable Christmas, it’s really important to take steps now to protect those we love. You can do this by getting fully vaccinated and having your booster when it’s due. It’s also important whilst Covid-19 infection rates are so high in the community to wear a face covering in crowded places and washing hands thoroughly with soap and water.

Taking these simple measures should help ensure we all have a merry Christmas this year.

-- Craig Black is interim chief executive of West Suffolk Hospitals Trust

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