A CONTINUING increase in coronavirus cases has seen Dumfries and Galloway Health and Social Care Partnership make difficult decisions to suspend or alter a range of routine services.
The significant rise in new COVID-19 related admissions to DGRI has prompted moves aimed at creating capacity to deal with the rising demand for health and social care provision – which is now greater than at any point during the first wave of the pandemic.
The decision has been taken to suspend some non-urgent, non-cancer elective or planned procedures.
Meanwhile, some community social care services are being suspended, reflecting the dangers posed by a strikingly high rate of the new, highly transmissible B.1.1.7 variant which is fuelling the local outbreaks.
Dumfries and Galloway Health and Social Care Partnership Chief Officer Julie White said: “Decisions to suspend services are never taken lightly, and we have held off as long as it was safely judged to do so before implementing these actions.
“To be very clear in respect of planned healthcare procedures, this is not a complete suspension. Our goal is to preserve our ability to undertake procedures deemed urgent by our clinical teams and to ensure that patients with cancer continue to receive timely treatment and support.
“Where possible, however, we are halting non-urgent clinical appointments for outpatients, day surgery and theatres in order to ensure we have the capacity to provide immediate help to those in most need.
“Patients can be assured that our clinical teams will assess our referrals to ensure that those most in need of urgent care are prioritised. We will keep these measures under review and will aim to get routine work back up and running as soon as is safe to do so.
“Although our hospitals are facing pressures around capacity, we are managing this situation – with contingency plans in place to increase capacity as required.”
Changes are also being implemented which affect GP practices in the region, with many practices focusing again on the provision of urgent care and support to their local patients.
Again this decision has been made in order that GP teams can support the assessment of patients with suspected COVID-19 in their local communities, although this will be undertaken virtually in most cases. This move will also enable GPs to focus on those patients with other urgent needs and conditions within their local communities, ensuring that admissions to hospital are avoided wherever possible and safe to do so.
Given the increasing levels of infection across the region, the Health and Social Care Partnership has also taken the decision that all adult respite units, adult day services and Activity and Resource Centres should only provide services to those in critical need at this time.
Additionally, given the specific concerns in the west of the region in terms of particularly high COVID infection levels, a decision has been made to suspend the ARCs in both Stranraer and Newton Stewart.
Currently, the advice being promoted by the Scottish Government is that the best way to stop the spread of COVID-19 and to protect ourselves and communities is to stay at home as much as possible.
Julie White said: “While none of this is what we would want, given all the work that’s been undertaken over many months to safely restore our services following the response to the first wave of COVID, these outcomes are the result of carefully considered decisions aimed firstly at reducing the spread of COVID-19 in our communities and secondly at ensuring that our staffing resource is utilised to support those most in need.
“Changes are also being implemented in the provision of Care at Home services within the Partnership. Our first consideration will continue to be for the wellbeing and safety of the individuals who receive our care at home services. Currently, however, due to pressures created by the pandemic, we are severely limited in the availability of care to meet needs across the region. We will therefore be working with our care providers, service users and their families to ensure that we provide a safe level of care for individuals whilst asking for flexibility in order for us to facilitate discharges from hospital.
“The first round of vaccinations have now been completed in each of the region’s 31 older adult care homes. We will continue to work with our local care home providers to optimise the use of these facilities to help meet people’s needs just now on both a permanent and short term basis to respond to the crisis.
“We very much hope to be able to restore all of our suspended services as soon as the situation allows, and ask everyone, individually, to play their part in helping to speed up that prospect by adhering to the national guidance around COVID – with the message of stay home, save lives.”
Staff involved in delivery of these services will be contacting people individually to advise them of these developments, and to discuss how people can continue to be supported during this difficult time.