The surge of people in Sunderland requiring hospital treatment this winter has only just begun, a health boss has warned.
Figures have revealed more than 8,100 people in the city required emergency hospital treatment in December – an increase of almost 8% from a year earlier.
Although the festivities are over, this is really just the start of the busy winter period for the NHSKen Bremner
Despite many people returning to work this week after the festive period, hospitals are bracing themselves for a sustained rise in pressure throughout this month and beyond.
Sunderland Royal Hospital’s emergency department saw the second-highest number of ambulance arrivals in the North East during December, it has been revealed.
But the pressure on hospitals is not expected to ease any time soon – with health bosses paying tribute to staff for their work in such a busy period.
Ken Bremner, chief executive of City Hospitals Sunderland and South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust, said: “The last few weeks have been an extremely busy and challenging time, not only here in South Tyneside and Sunderland, but across the region as a whole.
“NHS staff have worked relentlessly and beyond the call of duty to provide safe patient care, despite the extreme demands on services.
“We should all be extremely proud of the way in which teams are pulling together, often across organisational boundaries, to effective manage these pressures together and in the very best interests of patient care.
“Although the festivities are over, this is really just the start of the busy winter period for the NHS and for the thousands of NHS staff who work across the region.
“All trusts have already done a great deal of planning and preparation to make sure we continue to cope with the influx of very poorly patients that we expect to see at this time of year.”
In Sunderland, there were 8,164 emergency attendances at hospitals in December 2016, compared to 8,784 last month – a rise of 7.6%.
Health bosses are urging those who are experiencing flu-like symptoms to stay away from hospitals, with seasonal flu and winter vomiting bug “norovirus” circulating in communities.
For those who are otherwise fit and healthy, symptoms should clear up with good self-care, resting, drinking plenty of fluids and taking over-the-counter medication.
Before deciding to attend hospital, people are advised to call NHS 111 for advice, while there are also more GP appointments available.
For detailed information of all services, visit www.urgentoremergency.co.uk.