Healthcare leaders across County Durham and Darlington are uniting to call on local communities to help keep patients and healthcare services safe as nationally Coronvirus restrictions are lifted in many social settings.
The legal constraints on mask wearing and social distancing in England have been removed from this week in many social settings however, this does not apply across healthcare settings.
Healthcare professionals are urging members of the public to continue wearing masks, to adhere to social distancing and to continue practicing good hand hygiene when in hospital, a GP practice or any healthcare setting to help protect patients and vital healthcare workers.
Executive director of nursing at County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust, Noel Scanlon, explains why this is essential to keep patients safe. “It’s just under 500 days since the first national restrictions were put in place and we’re all desperate for society to return to how it was before Covid. Unfortunately, infection rates continue to rise, with the latest statistics showing that both County Durham and Darlington have well over double the national average number of people with Covid-19, many of whom may not realise they’re infected. The Delta variant of Covid, which is currently dominant in the UK, is more highly transmissible than any of the other variants, meaning that an infected person is likely to pass it in to many more people.
“So we need to do all we can to continue to protect our patients and our people by keeping these infection control and prevention measures in place and continuing with other restrictions such as limited visiting. This includes asking patients to attend appointments unaccompanied, other than in exceptional circumstances and with the consent of the medical team. If you bring someone to hospital, you are welcome to wait in the car park – please don’t wait in corridors – you’re putting yourself and others at risk.
“Covid is transmitted when we breathe out which is why we require anyone coming into our hospitals, including staff, to wear a hospital supplied face mask, which are available at the sanitiser stations at hospital entrances – other face coverings aren’t acceptable. Our patients are, by the very fact they’re unwell and in hospital, weaker and more vulnerable to Covid – which is why we continue to require masks. Wearing a mask protects others rather than ourselves and are a requirement for coming into our hospitals.
“We understand that some people struggle to wear a mask but we ask that they make every effort to tolerate doing so for the short time they’re with us for an appointment.
“While the vast majority of our patients are incredibly supportive and understanding, sadly, when trying to enforce mask wearing and visitor restrictions, some of our staff are being verbally abused, shouted at, even reduced to tears and fearful for their safety. This won’t be tolerated.”
Dr Stewart Findlay, GP and Chief Officer for NHS County Durham CCG, said: “The continued high community rates across County Durham are something we all must take very seriously and we can all do our bit to help protect each other, our loved ones and those most vulnerable. We are still all in this together – we are asking our local populations to continue with all these important measures which will help reduce the risk of infection when in hospitals or GP practices and help protect those needing our help as well as our own staff. We ask you to respect our healthcare staff and comply with the safety requirements in hospitals and healthcare settings. Doing all you can to avoid either getting Covid or spreading it really is the best thing you can do to help ensure our services can continue caring for those most in need – after all, we never know when that might be us.”