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Winter Pressures – Our reassurance to you

With so much in the news about the NHS and the pressure it is under on a daily basis, we want to reassure you that Cambridge University Hospitals has comprehensive plans in place to keep you and your family safe this winter.

These plans include doing everything in our power to reduce waiting times for elective surgery, and in our Emergency Department, by increasing flow through the hospital, to having contingencies in place for things we cannot fully predict – such as the ongoing impact of Covid-19, flu, winter vomiting and other seasonal challenges.

We will be there for our patients – but please help us to help you by fully utilising the services of NHS 111 - and NHS 111 online and choosing the most appropriate service. Together we can get through this winter and the following information, including the questions and answers below, are designed to help.

Your frequently asked questions answered

What are the winter pressures currently faced by CUH?

Addenbrooke’s and the Rosie are facing significant ongoing challenges. The number of Covid patients has risen since the summer, with some needing critical care. It is worth pointing out that the majority of Covid patients at CUH are unvaccinated and some are relatively young and previously healthy. We would urge anyone who is eligible, but not yet vaccinated, to organise this as soon as possible.

Alongside the impact of Covid, we are seeing extremely high demand across all of our services, with people waiting much longer than we would like to access our emergency department and to be admitted to one of our inpatient beds, should that be needed to progress their treatment and recovery. At the same time, the wait for planned surgery is significantly longer than would have been the case before Covid for most of our patients. This is due to significant disruption in our ability to operate safely during this pandemic. 

Despite all of this, we would like to reassure our community that we are making progress in recovering our services, sustaining excellent outcomes and good access within our cancer services and achieving some of the best outcomes in the country for our patients who require intensive care. The clinical effectiveness of our care and the safety of our patients remains our absolute focus as we move forward. 

Why is A&E so busy and what can be done to tackle it?

Our Emergency Department is dealing with hundreds of patients per day and regularly see numbers above pre-Covid levels. This increase is down to many factors and includes patients with minor illnesses or injuries coming to A&E who could be cared for by other healthcare services in the community. In addition, the colder weather puts up demand.    

One of the ways we can help reduce pressure on our Emergency Department is by working closely with other health services in the community such as the Ely and Doddington minor injury units, both of which can provide urgent care, help and advice.  Local pharmacies are another alternative for seeking expert advice.  

People can support the NHS by using the right service at the right time, so that our Emergency Department can keep providing care for people who have a genuinely urgent or emergency healthcare need. If you are unsure where to go for help, visit 111 online or call NHS 111.

Details of local minor injury units

How will extra capacity help?

Expanding the overall capacity of the hospital is vital to meeting the ongoing challenge of long waiting lists and high demand for services. In total we are investing in an extra 116 beds on site.  A new ward, T2, has already opened with 20 beds and we will open a 56 bed unit in 2022, next to T2. Another 40 bed facility has opened on the south of the Addenbrooke’s site.

New staff are vital too and we will be welcoming around 600 additional nurses alongside twice the number of apprentices. These colleagues will build on what is one of the most highly skilled workforces in the region. All this, while we continue to make great progress with our plans to build two new hospitals, the Cambridge Children’s and Cambridge Cancer Research Hospitals. These two inspirational projects are progressing at speed and will be fantastic additions to what is already an extraordinary and nationally significant campus. Our development of genomic medicine in both research and patient services is a hugely exciting prospect too.

Will the hospital have to cancel operations because of winter pressures?

Many patients are waiting longer than they, or we, would like, and we fully understand how upsetting and frustrating this is.  Referrals into the hospital continue too, so some waiting lists are still growing. If numbers of Covid patients are low, the hospital can carry out around 500 operations a week, that's proportionally above pre-Covid levels .  However, any rise in Covid patients can reduce the number of post-operative beds available for patients having planned surgery. This can lead to operations being cancelled. Please be assured we are doing everything we can to carry out as many operations as possible while keeping patients and staff safe. In the meantime, we are keeping in touch with patients who are waiting and providing them with information on what to do if their condition changes.

What impact has the pandemic had on hospital staff and what are you doing to support them?

Our staff are undoubtedly tired, and in some cases traumatised by the pandemic response and all of its impacts. We are working hard to ensure that they have access to appropriate levels of wellbeing support ranging from creative sessions provided by our arts team to psychological interventions for those most in need. We are also encouraging staff to take leave. It’s really important that we take time to look back since the Covid pandemic first began and build on what we’ve learned and the experiences we’ve been through, both good and bad, for staff and patients. 

We've delivered some extraordinary care at the same time as making national and international contributions in the field of Covid-19 research, collaborating with our partners on the Cambridge Biomedical Campus including the University of Cambridge, Astra Zeneca, and the Addenbrooke’s Charitable Trust; and our NHS friends at Royal Papworth Hospital and Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust. 

Despite everything we’re facing, with the support of our community, we’re confident we will meet the challenges of this pandemic and winter pressures, and keep improving our care for all.

What can the public do to help support the hospital? And its staff?

Please get vaccinated if you haven’t already done so – and be cautious in how you embrace new freedoms available.

Please support your NHS by using the right service at the right time, so that our Emergency Department can keep providing care for people who have a genuinely urgent or emergency healthcare need. If you are unsure where to go for help, visit 111 online or call NHS 111. Details of local minor injury units can be found here. Also take note of our rules on visiting and wearing face coverings.  It is still a requirement to wear a mask or face covering inside our hospitals.