Stretched staff across the NHS in Oxfordshire are urging people to follow lockdown guidelines as the county’s hospitals pass the first peak for Covid admissions.

Sam Foster, Chief Nursing Officer at Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the John Radcliffe, said: “As people will be aware, the NHS is currently experiencing huge challenges in our hospitals as we see increasing numbers of patients with Covid-19.

“Our hospitals are fuller than they were in March and April last year. We are doing all that we can to care for our patients with Covid but, if people do not stick to the national lockdown rules, we are likely to see cases rise even more and the pressure on our hospitals and our staff will increase further.

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“There is no better way to support your NHS than to follow lockdown rules.

“We know it can be difficult and that people are already fatigued after what was a challenging year, but it is more important than ever that everyone plays their part.”

Ansaf Azhar, Oxfordshire’s Director of Public Health, said increasing cases were a ‘serious warning’ of the need to ‘extra vigilant’, urging people to take personal responsibility.

Ed Capo-Bianco, GP and Urgent Care lead at Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said: “We need you to help us so that we can help you by following the lockdown rules.”

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He said GP practices in the county were now delivering Covid vaccinations to those most vulnerable and were ‘working hard’ to be able to give as many people as possible their vaccine as quickly as possible as well as running regular clinics for patients.

He added: “For this reason, please do consider whether you really need to contact your GP, your hospital team, or 111. There are other options available to advise and treat you.

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“Pharmacists can help, and NHS 111 is also available online. The NHS is open for you but we must ask everyone to act as responsibly and sensibly as possible in contacting health and social care over the coming weeks.”

David Dean, chief executive at Thames Valley Local Pharmaceutical Committee, said pharmacists should be people’s ‘best first port of call’ for minor health problems, adding: “Please don’t wait until it gets worse, we are here to help.”