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Critical Incident declared across health services in Sussex

A critical incident has been declared across health services in Sussex to help ensure local people continue to get safe and high-quality care over the New Year period.

Sussex Health & Care is currently seeing very high numbers of people needing care in A&E departments, calling NHS 111, accessing GP services, and calling 999, and are also seeing increasing numbers of people being hospitalized with flu and Covid, alongside high levels of staff sickness. This is all putting significant demand on services, meaning patients are waiting longer than they would like to be seen and treated.

Sussex Health & Care said “Declaring a critical incident allows us to take additional steps to the way services are managed so we can maintain safety for our patients and help staff manage the growing pressures we are experiencing. This includes focusing the workforce on areas where most needed, asking some staff to come back from annual leave to work, and using all capacity possible across the health system.”

“Unfortunately, this will mean it is necessary for some non-urgent operations, treatments, and outpatient appointments to be rescheduled to accommodate those patients with the most urgent clinical need. Patients will be contacted to have their procedures rescheduled as soon as possible. Cancer patients and our most urgent procedures will continue to be prioritised.”

Essential services remain fully open for anyone who needs them over the New Year period and anyone who has an appointment over the coming days should attend unless they are contacted to say otherwise. 

The public is being urged to play their part in helping themselves and others get the care they need during this period. This includes taking the following actions:

  • Thinking very carefully about choosing the most appropriate NHS service for your needs and to only using 999 and A&E departments for serious or life-threatening emergencies, such as chest pain, severe bleeding or breathing difficulties.
  • Collecting family and friends from hospital as soon as they are ready to be discharged, and to support the discharge process to available community beds, to allow acute hospital beds to be freed up for those who need them most.
  • Being prepared and ensuring you stock up on over-the-counter medicines and collect your repeat prescription ahead of the Bank Holiday, so you don’t run out of your regular medication.
  • Staying away from our hospitals if you have symptoms of flu or Covid or have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, unless it is an emergency.
  • Keep yourself protected and boost your immunity with COVID-19 and flu vaccinations if you are eligible.

It is very important people know what services are available to them if needed and to use them in the most appropriate way:

  • NHS 111 – Visit for help and advice (for issues for people over 5 years old) or call 111 free of charge when you can’t wait to see your doctor, or you need help but don’t know where to go. This is available 24/7, 365 days a year. Your call will be answered as quickly as possible but you may need to wait in a queue before talking to someone, or the call handler may arrange a call back with a clinician depending on your needs.
  • Your GP surgery – some practices are offering appointments on Saturday 31 December. To check the arrangements at your practice, check the surgery website or give them a call.
  • Pharmacy – lots of pharmacies are open over the Bank Holiday weekend for treatment and advice for minor illnesses. Check your local pharmacy opening hours here.
  • Urgent Treatment Centres (UTC), Minor Injuries Units (MIU) or Walk-in Centres – Most UTCs, MIUs and Walk-in Centres are open over the Bank Holiday weekend if you need urgent care but it’s not an emergency, for things like sprains, burns and suspected minor fractures. Check where your local UTC and MIU is here.
  • Mental health crisis support – If you or someone you know needs help for mental health support and is in crisis, call the Sussex Mental Healthline on 0800 0309500 or text SUSSEX to 85258 for a free, confidential chat. These services are available 24 hours, 7 days a week, throughout the New Year period. Find out about other ways to get help with your mental health:
  • Only dial 999 or visit A&E if it is a serious or life-threatening emergency such as chest pain, severe bleeding or breathing difficulties.

Find out more detail of the services open today and over the weekend on the NHS Sussex website.

NHS Sussex Chief Nursing Officer Allison Cannon said:

“Our priority is always the safety of our patients and staff so we have taken the decision across the system to act swiftly ahead of the New Year Bank Holiday weekend to declare a critical incident due to the current extreme pressure services are experiencing.  This will help us ensure patients are getting the best possible care during this time and provide greater support for staff.

“The NHS remains there for you if you need it and essential services remain open over the Bank Holiday weekend. However, it is crucial you seek help from the most appropriate services for your needs and only use emergency services such as 999 and A&E for emergencies.

“We also need to make sure patients who are ready to leave hospital can be discharged as quickly and safely as possible to allow others to get the care they need. You can help by being on hand to collect your loved ones as soon as they are well enough to return back to their place of normal residence.”

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