SOMERSET'S health and social care services are under more pressure than at any time during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Rates of coronavirus in the county are at their highest levels since the start of the pandemic and the number of patients with Covid-19 being cared for by the NHS remains high.

The result is a very limited number of beds available in hospitals and care homes.

To add to the problem, there are high numbers of staff off work, either with Covid symptoms or isolating.

Dr Dan Meron, chief medical officer for Musgrove-based Somerset NHS Foundation Trust and Yeovil District Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Across both our trusts we are caring for approximately 200 patients with coronavirus and we are juggling absence rates of between 6 and 8 per cent as a direct result of colleagues being ill with the virus.

"The measures hospitals and other healthcare settings work within mean that this has a massive impact on the running of our services.

"Very sadly this also impacts on the planned care – the operations and other procedures that patients have waited a long time for - because we simply don’t have the beds in which to care for them and we have large gaps in our staffing rotas.

“Our colleagues have worked very hard for two years to care for patients who need urgent and planned care, and to care for the patients with Covid-19 who need our services.

"We are currently dealing with one of the most difficult periods of this pandemic and we are asking the public for their help and understanding.

"Please do all you can to limit the spread of coronavirus – it is very much still here and affecting your local health services.

"You can also really help us by supporting a family member or loved one to leave hospital when they are medically fit to do so.

"That will enable us to admit another person who needs our care.

"Also think carefully about whether you need our services now at this time when we are under extreme pressure.

"However, I must emphasise that we are here for you and you should not hesitate to contact us if you require urgent attention.”

NHS and local authority social workers across Somerset are working tirelessly to keep services running to support us all safe and well.

However, Musgrove Park Hospital, Yeovil Hospital and the county’s community hospital have taken the difficult decision to temporarily restrict visiting to patients receiving end of life care and for carers of patients with specific needs that require the support of a carer.

Dr Ed Ford, chairman of Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “Your local GP surgery, and all the staff who work across the county, continue to work tirelessly to support the health and care needs of their communities.

"During this incredibly challenging time, GP practices are working hard to ensure patients who need an urgent consultation are prioritised.

"This might mean that you may experience delays for less urgent conditions.

"Thank you for being patient and kind to our staff if you need to wait longer to have your enquiry dealt with.

"You can also continue to support us by seeking help from the NHS website which has lots of advice about self-management and can direct you to the most appropriate service if you need it.

"Most importantly you can help by doing all you can to help stop the spread of Covid-19.”

You can help ease the pressure and ensure services are there for people who need them most:

•Use NHS services wisely to get the right treatment, in the right place, at the right time. Hospital emergency departments are under extreme pressure. If you’re unwell and are unsure about where to go, visit or call 111.

•Contact your local pharmacist for minor health issues.

•Use the HANDi paediatric app for advice on common childhood illnesses.

•Only call 999 in a medical emergency – when someone is seriously ill or injured and their life is at risk.

•Support loved ones to leave hospital so they can be more comfortable and recover more quickly at home.

•Do not visit friends or family in hospital if you have Covid-19.

To help stop the spread of Covid:

•Get vaccinated – for the latest information visit

•Wear a face mask in health settings.

•Consider wearing a face covering in crowded, enclosed spaces.

•Let fresh air in if you meet indoors – meeting outdoors is safer.

•Get tested and stay at home if you have symptoms to avoid passing Covid-19 and other infectious diseases on to other people, particularly those who are most vulnerable.

•Stay at home and avoid contact with other people if you test positive.

•Wash your hands regularly and cover coughs and sneezes.