As 2020 draws to a close, I, like others, have reflected on what a different year it has been. You may have experienced for the first time concerns about your or your family’s physical and mental health, uncertainty over your job and livelihood and may be worried about your children’s education and futures. Holiday plans were cancelled, and we all got used to communication via screens rather than face to face.
But in the midst of such difficult times, we have seen some amazing acts of kindness, with communities coming together to support the vulnerable and lonely, and tens of thousands of people showing their support for each other and the NHS. The clapping for carers, rainbow pictures and overwhelming donations of home- made masks, gowns, food and support have touched all of us who work and volunteer at the Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust.
In many areas, neighbours have rallied round those who are living on their own or in need of help with day to day living, such as food shopping or collecting prescriptions. These community spirited actions are helping many to stay well and out of hospital, and are helping to reduce the spread of infection by keeping vulnerable people shielded. It is so heartening to know that whilst you may have been worried about the virus, you are still taking time to follow the guidance and take action to help others, which helps to reduce the demand for your local health and care services.
We’re seeing a rise in Covid positive patients as we head into the New Year, so it is more important than ever to follow the ‘hands, face, space and fresh air’ rules and adhere to the current Tier regulations. This will help to reduce the spread of infection (remembering that many who test positive have no symptoms but can spread infection to those who may experience severe symptoms). Restricting the spread of infection will ease pressure on our NHS services and enable our doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals to devote their time to treat those in urgent need of help.
As always, if you have a life threatening health emergency requiring immediate assistance, please phone 999 or attend our Emergency Department (ED). However, you may need urgent care or advice, for symptoms like a lump that has appeared and not gone away, unexplained bleeding or severe respiratory problems, or if you have long term and multiple conditions that need regular monitoring. If so, please seek medical help by contacting 111 or your local GP. In many cases, a telephone call can resolve things, or 111 staff can arrange a timed appointment for you to attend the Walk in Centre or other setting, including ED. This avoids the need for overcrowded waiting rooms or long waits.
All of our Trust sites – the Royal Berkshire Hospital, West Berkshire Community Hospital, Townlands Hospital, Bracknell Healthspace, Prince Charles Eye Unit, Windsor Dialysis Unit and the Dingley Child Development Centre- are open and staff and patients are following strict infection control and health and safety rules.
Covid has generated some huge and unfamiliar challenges, and it’s also meant that we have seen our communities and the NHS at our very best. I speak for all my colleagues when I say how proud we are to be part of our National Health Service and all it has achieved in the last year. Our teams of staff and volunteers, as well as those in GP practices, ambulances, pharmacies, local authorities, and community settings have shown devotion, dedication, and innovation to make sure we continue to see and treat as many patients as safely as possible. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of our colleagues and to say how proud I am of them and how grateful we all are for the support shown to us by the communities we serve.
We are heading into 2021 with hope in our hearts as we see the roll out of the Covid vaccine to those over 80 years of age and care home staff. I’d like to thank all our local healthcare teams for the way they are delivering the vaccine locally. With more vaccine supplies on the way soon, we are looking forward to the roll out of the vaccine programme to give protection for the rest of the population.
We are continuing our work on ‘Building Berkshire Together’, our hospital redevelopment proposals, and look forward, as an anchor institution, to continuing our engagement with our communities over the coming weeks and months to further shape these proposals for the creation of a built environment from which we will run our services for generations to come.
I’d like to wish you all a safe and peaceful New Year.
30 December 2020