THE message has come in an Open Letter on behalf of the Clinical Chairs of Sussex CCGs.

CCGs organise the delivery of NHS services,

Here is the letter: “We wanted to take this opportunity together to thank everyone across Sussex for your continued support for the NHS this year.

2020 has been a year like no other, and it has brought the NHS to the fore in ways that we could never have expected at the start of the year.

Little did we know back in January with the initial reports from China just how much COVID-19 would affect our professional and personal lives this year.

In February however the first case in the UK was confirmed as a Brighton resident and from there we have seen incredible changes to the way we work and how we all live our lives.

From the first day of response and throughout the whole year we have seen the commitment and dedication of health and care teams from across Sussex to give their time tirelessly to make sure we can continue to provide care for those who need it.

We have good foundations for partnership work but the pandemic has really tested that and brought us all much closer together, working with a shared ambition to keep our communities safe.

Throughout it all the support from the public and our partners has been incredible. From the clap for carers to the positive messages delivered on a one to one basis to the member of staff that really needed it that day, having our communities behind us has helped all of our collective teams to keep going.

We know that things have been different for you in terms of your healthcare, and responding to the pandemic has meant changes to the way you access NHS help and what was available. If you were affected we are very sorry for the impact that this may have had on you. It has been our utmost priority to keep you safe when you need NHS help.

The changes have hopefully also meant improvements to the way we work. The dependence on technology that the pandemic has brought about has opened up new opportunities for us to offer flexible and innovative ways to care for our patients. Phone and online appointments alongside face to face appointments in our GP practices have helped people access the support they need without even leaving their house, and similarly virtual appointments for health checks, routine appointments and outpatient checks means that across the NHS we can be more responsive to the way you live your lives.

The launch of COVID-19 vaccinations this month signals a hope to the end of restrictions in the future. We have started the roll out across Sussex with vaccinations taking place at three hospital hubs and 15 GP-led vaccination services covering 56 practices spread across our communities. More sites will be going live over the coming weeks and all areas will be covered with each site working to invite people for an appointment in line with the national guidance on the priority groups.

Winter is always a time of increased demand on the NHS but this year there is also the addition of a rise in patients with COVID-19 needing our help.

There are many ways that you can help support the NHS this festive season.

Please follow the relevant Tier guidelines closely; from Boxing Day we are all in Tier 4 and whilst this may be hard it is designed to keep us safe.

Secondly, use NHS services wisely so we can make sure that the people who need it most are cared for. The NHS remains open and here for you whenever you need us, but you can help by using 111 as your first point of call for non-emergency care – a health professional can offer you advice on the phone and if you need it they may even be able to offer you a booked appointment with the most relevant health service for you.

Finally, we must all work together to help reduce the spread of the virus – remember Hands, Face, Space. Following this simple advice is the best thing you can do to keep yourself and your family safe.

Your support has been incredible this year and helped many of us along the way, and we are asking you this festive season to keep it up. Thank you all,

Andy, David and Laura

Clinical Chair of  NHS East Sussex CCG, Dr David Warden

Clinical Chair of NHS Brighton and Hove CCG, Dr Andrew Hodson

Clinical Chair of NHS West Sussex CCG, Dr Laura Hill