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Thank you and please carry on helping us to help you

An open letter to the people of Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly from the NHS and Cornwall Council care services.
As we approach Christmas and New Year, we want to thank you for the many ways you have responded to the pressures on our health and care services in 2021 and we have a big ask – we need you to continue to help us, to help you.

Health and care workers across Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly are working tirelessly together to keep services running to support us all, our loved ones, our neighbours, and our communities.

We are all in the unprecedented circumstances of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic with its new Omicron variant. We have an ambitious booster vaccine programme for anyone aged 18 and older and by the end of the month we will have vaccinated 172,000 people – around 9,000 people a day. The booster provides up to 70% protection from the new variant. We are expanding the places where people can be vaccinated, including at the re-opened Stithians showground site.

There is high demand for all services, and we are preparing for an anticipated surge in COVID-19 cases. It is vital we keep beds in our acute hospitals at Treliske and Derriford free for people needing urgent and emergency treatment, our community hospitals free to provide continuing care, and our ambulances on the road able to respond to emergency calls.

In recent days we have seen many ambulances queuing and unable to unload patients causing delays in response time to 999 calls. There have been many people in hospital beds who are waiting for care to be arranged in their own or care homes and we have a lot of people waiting in the emergency department for hospital beds – which is the reason the ambulances can’t unload their patients. It’s a vicious circle – but if we all work together, we can fix it.

Here’s how you can help us help you

Support loved ones to leave hospital

Please collect loved ones from hospital as soon as they are ready to leave, either from the emergency department or from wards, to free up beds for patients needing emergency care. If you need help to manage your loved ones at home, let us know and we will do all we can to support you.

Choose services well – helping us to help you and everyone in Cornwall

While the whole of general practice is focused on delivering the vaccination programme, we would like to reassure you that they remain available to treat urgent and complex conditions.

GP surgeries

GP surgeries are open on Christmas Eve, 8am to 6.30pm, reopening at 8am on Wednesday 29 December. They will be closed on 1 and 2 January, but NHS 111 and out of hours services are always available. Please always call your GP in the first instance if you need health advice, but consider delaying your call if it’s routine or non-urgent, or if you can get help from another service, such as a pharmacy. This will allow GPs and practice nurses to deliver the vaccination programme and focus on urgent health care needs.

Your GP knows you and your family best, and will be able to help you to make the right choices. You should always call your GP if you are worried about something, or you have a condition that isn’t getting any better. You will be seen in person if you need to be examined, but most conditions can be discussed over the phone, or by video call with a clinician. Your GP practice still needs to limit the spread of infection, so please understand if the practice doesn’t feel you need a face-to-face appointment.


Pharmacists can give expert and speedy help with minor ailments such as cystitis, conjunctivitis, impetigo, and rashes. They can also provide over the counter remedies to treat coughs and colds, so stock up now and please feel confident speaking to a pharmacist about your health.

Pharmacists can also dispense emergency medicines if you have forgotten to organise your repeat prescription before the holiday, or if you have a guest who has forgotten their medication.

NHS 111 and out of hours services

Don’t forget NHS 111 and out of hours services. Please call 111 or use the NHS 111 online service if you need health advice, or think you need to be seen in a minor injury unit to treat broken bones, burns, animal and insect bites, deep cuts that need stitching, or you need an x-ray.

Emergency department and 999

Only visit the emergency department or use 999 for life threatening conditions. Please do not call 999 asking for an update on when an ambulance will arrive.

Get your COVID-19 jab

Anyone 18 and older can now book an appointment online or by calling 119, or visiting one of our walk-in centres. It’s also not too late for people to book their first or second dose if they’ve not yet received any protection.

Nearly 10% of people are failing to attend their vaccination appointment; please help us by cancelling your appointment if you no longer need it to free it up for someone else. There are plenty of appointments available, but please be patient as we are experiencing overwhelming demand and be kind to our NHS staff.

Keep safe – if we all work together, we will keep everyone we love safe

We should continue to wear face coverings in public and crowded settings, wash our hands, keep rooms ventilated, get tested regularly and isolate if you or anyone else at home has symptoms of COVID-19.

Do not visit your GP, pharmacy, our hospitals, care homes, or schools if you have symptoms of COVID-19. Remember all services are available online or by phone.

Look after your mental health

We know that the festive season can be a challenging time for some people. Help is available for anyone including those who want to talk to someone. Cornwall’s mental health response line is available all day, every day if you need help or support with your own or someone else’s mental health. Call free on 0800 038 5300.

Don’t be reckless this Christmas

Most people are looking forward to enjoying the upcoming festivities with their friends and relatives. At this time of year our hospitals and minor injury units are traditionally busy with revellers who have had drunken accidents. Please do not add to the NHS’ burden by hurting yourself or others because you think you have superpowers after a couple of festive sherries! Please help us by keeping safe and keeping our hospitals and emergency services free to focus on caring for people who really need our help.

We’re all in this together and only by working together and supporting each other and our services can we keep each other and our health and care provision safe and available for all.

We wish you a safe and happy Christmas and New Year.

Doctors Penny Atkinson, Jim Tait, Andy May, Clinical directors for north and east, west and central Cornwall
Kate Shields, chief executive officer (CEO) designate, Cornwall and Isles of Scilly’s Integrated Care System
Tony Chambers, interim CEO, Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust
Debbie Richards, CEO, Cornwall Partnership NHS Foundation Trust
Kate Kennally, CEO, Cornwall Council
Dr Paul Cook, Chairman, NHS Kernow, Clinical Commissioning Group

Added on 20 December 2021, in News - Choose well

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