Hospitals request military support against Omicron

Date published: 14 January 2022

Local hospitals have requested military support in the fight against the Omicron variant of Covid-19.

The Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership is waiting to receive confirmation about the level of support that will be provided.

This comes as non-urgent surgeries and hospital appointments are being postponed due to a staff shortage as a result of high sickness and isolation levels from Covid-19. The NHS is under sustained pressure, resulting in extremely long waits to be seen in emergency departments (A&E) and long waits for ambulances. Wider primary care continues to be under significant pressure, with community pharmacy experiencing high levels of demand for lateral flow tests following national supply issues.

Currently, over 1,200 people with Covid-19 are occupying hospital beds across Greater Manchester (week of 10 January).

The partnership is working across Greater Manchester to help manage demand on hospital services through a number of ways including:

  • opening as many additional beds as safely possible in hospitals and community settings
  • actively discharging people home where possible and safe to do so
  • virtual services have been established to see more people
  • re-deploying staff where appropriate and safe to do so

A Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership spokesperson said: “Health and care services across Greater Manchester have been under sustained pressure throughout the pandemic, which in recent weeks has been compounded by the spread of the Omicron variant of the Coronavirus.

“Patient safety will always be our priority and we have already taken a number of steps to make sure we can provide care to those who need it most. This now includes requesting support from the Armed Forces to help with discharging patients and assisting with administrative and planning roles - as well as providing some basic care such as helping patients with nutrition and hydration.

“During this challenging time, we’d ask that everyone continues to support the NHS.

“If your need is urgent but isn’t an emergency, please use NHS 111, either online or over the phone – their trained advisors will be able to help and direct you to the best place to get treatment.  

“Reducing the spread of the coronavirus is a key way people can help the NHS throughout this period. Please continue to follow all government guidance, wear face coverings in public, limit social contact where possible, and practice good hygiene.

“And remember, if you’re yet to be fully vaccinated, it will never be too late to have any of your jabs – it’s the best thing you can do for yourself and your community.”

Sarah Price, interim chief officer of Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership, added: “The number of people in our hospitals remain high, so if you are collecting a loved one - please pick them up as soon as possible.

“We know it is not always possible to drop everything when we call, but the quicker we can get someone home, the quicker we can give the bed to another person who really needs it.”

Anyone with health concerns is urged to continue to come forward for help and treatment in the usual way, using their local emergency department only for serious illnesses or injuries.

Lots of illnesses can be managed safely at home, or with a trip to a local pharmacist. Your local pharmacist can give advice on lots of health issues and there’s no need for an appointment. Over 95% of community pharmacies now have a private consultation room from which they can offer advice to patients and a range of services.

GP practices are open and have remained open throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. Many GPs are now working in a different way, asking patients to get in touch online initially (where possible) and operating a triage (order of treatment) system to ensure patients with more urgent concerns are prioritised, including for a face-to-face appointment.

Dental practices are open and providing services. Practices are working hard to see as many patients as possible while ensuring that services are safe for the public. They can be contacted by phone or online for advice, or to book an appointment if needed. The Greater Manchester dental helpline (0333 332 3800) is available from 8am to 10pm every day, including weekends and Bank Holidays for those who need help urgently when their practice is closed, or do not have a regular dentist.

People can seek help in the community to avoid a visit to hospital for accident and emergencies related to eyes. A service has been set up so patients can access free urgent NHS care at some optometry practices locally. Some optometrists have equipment to take scans of the eye and others have had additional training to allow them to prescribe eye medications.

Optometrists can share information with the Manchester Royal Eye Hospital to get an extra opinion when required. Sometimes patients may be sent to the hospital if further care is needed. You can find more information here.

Anyone who has an urgent medical need and isn’t sure what to do can contact NHS 111 online or call for free. The NHS 111 service can provide self-care advice, signpost to an appropriate local service, or book people in to be seen at their local pharmacy, GP practice or emergency department.

NHS 111 can book you an appointment at your local A&E or emergency department. This means you will have an allocated time to attend hospital and be treated, so you don’t have to wait a long time to be seen and can also help services avoid becoming overcrowded.

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