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Business as usual for NHS staff across Suffolk and north Essex amid severe snow storm

PUBLISHED: 14:06 28 February 2018 | UPDATED: 18:53 28 February 2018

Ipswich Hospital in the snow on February 28.  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Ipswich Hospital in the snow on February 28. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Dedicated NHS staff across Suffolk and north Essex are tackling the Beast from the East head-on to keep vital health services running.

The estates team at Ipswich Hosptial salting and clearing paths. Picture: GARETH PERKINSThe estates team at Ipswich Hosptial salting and clearing paths. Picture: GARETH PERKINS

Bosses at Ipswich, West Suffolk and Colchester hospitals assured it was “business as usual” today as the region was battered by another severe snowstorm.

Patients were urged to only attend appointments if it was safe to do so and were provided with dedicated numbers to call to make cancellations.

Nick Hulme, chief executive of Ipswich and Colchester, took to social media to praise committed staff, including a student nurse who left Norwich at 4am to ensure he was there for his patients.

Helen Beck, chief operating officer at West Suffolk, said: “The efforts of staff to get to work, both at the hospital itself and in the community, have been commendable in what are very difficult weather conditions. We are supporting them with arrangements where needed, including 4x4 transfers and accommodation options, for the coming days.”

Norman Ellis, from Hadleigh, whose journey to Addenbrooke's Hospital was cancelled due to snow. Picture: NORMAN ELLISNorman Ellis, from Hadleigh, whose journey to Addenbrooke's Hospital was cancelled due to snow. Picture: NORMAN ELLIS

However, Ms Beck said the hospital was “extremely busy” and urged people to use A&E wisely.

A spokeswoman for the East of England Ambulance Service said the trust had seen an increase in demand due to the weather, with the worst affected areas being Suffolk, Norfolk and coastal areas.

The trust also runs patient transport services across the region for people who need extra support getting to non-emergency NHS appointments.

Due to the adverse conditions, the ambulance service was only able to drive patients to urgent check-ups in Suffolk and Essex.

Norman Ellis had his journey to Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge from his home in Hadleigh cancelled.

The 57-year-old pest controller is unable to travel in a standard vehicle after breaking his pelvis during an accident at work in January and having a metal plate fitted.

He was due to return to the hospital today for his first check-up after the surgery.

While Mr Ellis said he understood why his journey was cancelled, he was disappointed because the next available appointment at Addenbrooke’s was in April.

He said: “It will be nearly better by then so by the time I get to see him if there was anything that concerned him today by then it might be too late, but it’s just the way it is.”

All GP surgeries across east and west Suffolk and north-east Essex remained opened, although some staff faced trouble getting to work.

Woolpit Health Centre was operating an emergency service only, with pre-booked appointments cancelled.

Stowhealth asked patients to only contact the practice if they have an urgent issue as two doctors and two nurses couldn’t reach work.

Dr Nick Rayner, executive chairman of Suffolk Primary Care, a collaboration of 11 GP practices across the county, said some surgeries had to cancel blood test appointments because of a lack of courier services to collect samples.

Evening appointments have been reserved for urgent problems only until the weather clears to protect patient and staff safety, Dr Rayner added.

Phlebotomy services at St Peter’s Hospital in Maldon and St Michael’s Hospital in Braintree closed early; and the GP X-ray service at St Peter’s was cancelled.

Suffolk County Council is working hard to ensure vulnerable people who rely on home visits for personal care continue to get the support they need, which has seen staff using 4x4 vehicles to reach rural parts of the county.

However, the authority is also asking people to look out for elderly neighbours.

Rebecca Hopfensperger, Suffolk County Council’s cabinet member for adult care, said: “Just a knock on the door or phone call might be enough to check they’re OK and have what they need.”

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