“We are not out of the woods yet – the organisation is still under pressure.”
That is the message from Lindsey Robertson, chief nurse at North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust.
The Trust is still treating around 80 patients who have COVID-19 – though this has reduced from a peak of more than 200.
The organisation is calling on people to continue to follow the guidelines and to accept a vaccination appointment when offered.
Lindsey, who is chief nurse and director of patient safety and quality, said: “The government announcement is good news.
“But it has been a very challenging time and continues to be so – we are not out of the woods yet and still have lots of patients in hospital with COVID-19.
“The pressure is still there, we still have very ill patients in critical care. We must continue to practice good hand hygiene, wear a facemask in public and accept a vaccination appointment when offered.”
The Trust plans to restart elective surgery and will keep its suspension on visitors to its hospitals under regular review.
Lindsey added: “At this point it is too early to allow visitors back into the hospital buildings – but we want to do so as soon as we can.
“We know how hard it is for people not to be able to visit relatives and loved ones. The Trust wants to assess at each stage what impact these changes will have and we are looking at the situation very closely.
“We also need to now focus on returning our elective surgery programme, it’s a fine balance.
“The message is to be cautious, it’s really important we remain full of hope – the vaccine is our biggest avenue out of this.”
To support staff, the Trust has put a number of measures in place including new staff health and wellbeing rooms in both of its hospital sites and advice and support lines.
Lindsey said: “For our staff, it’s so important we take a break when we can. There is lots of mental health and wellbeing help on offer to help with any post-traumatic stress people may experience as well as any other issues.
“The new wellbeing Rainbow Rooms we have – created from the funding received from the Captain Sir Tom Moore collection – have provided a place for staff to go to.
“We also have advice and support for staff from our own specialists as well as those from our colleagues at Tees Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust.”