The NHS in Sussex is calling on residents to remember simple steps to reduce the spread of COVID-19 as demand for services rises in the region.

The demand for all NHS services across Sussex has risen significantly due to the higher infection rates of COVID-19 in the community in recent weeks.

Staff across the NHS are working tirelessly to ensure they continue to provide safe consistent care.

Hospitals, community teams, mental health services and GP practices are very busy but remain open to provide care.

In hospital, cancer and other urgent operations are continuing and teams are working to carry on providing other non-COVID treatments as much as possible but hospitals have postponed some routine surgery to ensure that those who need help most at this time can receive it.

Patients who have appointments should still attend unless you hear directly from the NHS. If we need to reschedule an appointment patients will be contacted directly.

You can still travel to medical appointments in and out of Tier 4, and we urge you to keep appointments unless you feel unwell or have suspected COVID-19 symptoms.

The pressure will stay on the NHS as long as the infection rates stay high. To protect yourself, family and friends and help the NHS everyone needs to do their bit to keep Sussex safe.

We all need to follow the guidance– to stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Remember – Hands, face, space, working from home where you can, and all of the requirements of the Tiers where you live.

The NHS is also calling on anyone in need of healthcare, which is urgent but not an emergency, to use NHS 111 first online at NHS.uk or by calling 111.

The 111 service should also be called before attending one the NHS services that patients would usually walk into without an appointment.

GPs are still there for patients, and are asking residents get in touch about any health concerns by phone or online for advice now, as spotting problems early is vital, especially for things like cancers.

Dr George Findlay, Chief Medical Officer at BSUH and WSHT, said: “Colleagues are working incredibly hard to make sure patients are cared for in a safe and timely way but across our hospitals we are treating an increasing number of patients with COVID and patients who are seriously ill. Our communities in Sussex have been hugely supportive of the NHS and I want to thank them. But while the vaccine is being rolled out it’s really important that they continue to show their support by using A&Es only for accident and emergencies and following the guidelines on hands, face, space to stop the COVID virus from spreading.”

“Unfortunately we have had to delay a number of routine planned, operations to ensure we can treat patients who need urgent care quickly and to maintain the highest standards of safety for all our patient. This decision is never taken lightly and our staff will reschedule any postponed operation as soon as possible.”

David Walker, Medical Director for ESHT, said: “Our hospitals in East Sussex are incredibly busy at the moment. We are now seeing triple the number of COVID-19 positive inpatients compared with the first peak and numbers are still increasing.

“Our teams are working incredibly hard to provide these patients with the best possible care, however we have had to make the difficult decision to postpone some routine surgery to ensure that those who need help most receive it.

”There are many things that you can do to help support us. Please use NHS services wisely – we are here for you when you need it, but please use 111 as your first point of call for non-critical care.”

Dr Elizabeth Gill, Joint Chief Medical Officer for Sussex Commissioners, said: “The NHS is open and here for you if you need us, and we are now calling on the public to support us to help us help those who need it most.

“Our dedicated staff across health and care organisations are working tirelessly to continue to provide care and support where needed.

“Now, we really need your help to carry on this good work – everyone needs to make sure they use NHS111 first to get the medical help you need, continue to follow the  guidance of maintaining social distancing, have good hand hygiene and finally wear a mask, unless you are exempt – HANDS. FACE. SPACE.

“The NHS in Sussex wants to thank residents for their support during this incredibly challenging year to help keep Sussex safe. Everyone has a role to play and your efforts are helping the NHS to carry on keeping you, your loved ones and our staff safe.”