23 December 2020

An open letter to our communities, patients and colleagues this festive season

Thank you for the overwhelming support you have shown us in 2020, which has been a year like no other.

In the first wave of the pandemic we appreciated the immense outpouring of support and encouragement from our local communities, as our dedicated 7000-strong team at ESHT worked hard to provide patients with the best possible care. However, the recent sharp increase in cases across East Sussex, mainly concentrated in Hastings and Rother, shows that the pandemic is far from over.

At ESHT our usual winter pressures have been compounded by the significant impact of positive Covid-19 patients being admitted to our hospitals – this is already triple the number that we cared for in the first peak. Numbers are still increasing and our hospitals are far busier than usual. We are having to make difficult decisions such as postponing non-urgent surgery to ensure that we can safely manage this unprecedented demand and we are sorry if this has impacted you.

There are many ways that you can help support us and our NHS family. Firstly, please follow the relevant Tier guidelines closely, depending on where you live in the county. Secondly, use NHS services wisely so we can make sure that the people who need it most are cared for. While we remain open and here for you whenever you need us, you can help by using NHS111 as your first point of call for non-critical care – a clinician could 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. Also please speak to your GP or local pharmacist if you’re feeling unwell, need health advice or a repeat prescription. Many of these service will be open and available over the Christmas and New Year period.

We must all work together to help reduce the spread of the virus in East Sussex by following: Hands, Face, Space. Without a doubt, following this simple advice is the best thing you can do to keep yourself, your family and the NHS safe this Christmas.

It’s important to also remember that the less contact we have with others, the less this virus will spread and affect those we love. We know this is difficult and we know it is asking a lot, because like you, we all want to spend time with our friends and loved ones over the festive season. However, with an effective vaccine in sight and the roll-out already happening across East Sussex, now is not the time to be complacent.

As a community we have shown what we can do when we put our mind to it. Together we have reduced the rate of transmission once and helped to keep each other safe. It’s important that we work together to do this again.

With best wishes for the festive season

Joe Chadwick-Bell
Chief Executive, East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust