Back on 31 December 2019 the World Health Organisation was informed of cluster of pneumonia cases in Wuhan in China and so it all began. Over the nearly 2 years since then, each and everyone of us has been affected in some way by Covid. Life has changed and tragically many lives have been lost to this Coronavirus. My heart goes out to all who have lost loved ones.
As we approach Christmas 2021, I am reflecting on the incredible work of our wonderful NHS which has been right at the epicentre of this pandemic each and every day, working round the clock saving lives and dealing with emergencies completely unrelated to COVID as well fighting all that this virus has thrown at us.
Here in Middlesbrough, we are truly blessed by having James Cook University Hospital (JCUH) right on our doorstep. Our designated major trauma centre provides world class specialist services for our region and it has played an absolutely vital role during these immensely demanding last 18 months.
JCUH was one of the world’s first vaccination centres and it has provided COVID care to more than 4,000 patients and recovery rates for the most critically ill Coronavirus patients are amongst the highest in the nation.
Our amazing laboratory workers were amongst the very first in the country to develop round the clock on-site testing for COVID and moved mountains to quickly set up a service to test patient and staff swabs 24 hours a day, seven days a week – working continuously to improve turnaround times which rapidly decreased from over 24 hours to less than six hours. Ground breaking work here in Middlesbrough.
There are no words to fully extend my gratitude to all the staff who have faced the most gruelling of conditions. From cleaners to cardiologists, porters to paediatricians and receptionists to radiographers, you have all ensured that people who need treatment have been able to access services.
Measures taken by clinicians at South Tees NHS Trust to separate their hospitals into COVID and non-COVID areas meant they were able to continue providing life-saving surgery during the pandemic and their cardiothoracic and neurosurgery centres have been the second highest performing centre in the whole country.
JCUH has also done the right thing and helped out overstretched surgical services in other parts of the country meaning many patients from across the North and beyond will have very good reason to remember their visit to Middlesbrough with great gratitude.
During November 2021 alone, surgical teams across South Tees NHS Foundation Trust services carried out over 4,000 operations, of which 3,117 were planned operations. During the same period, more than 86,000 outpatient appointments took place. Given all the restrictions, changing guidance and necessary self-isolations from staff, this is no mean feat.
We’re entering into yet another restructure of our NHS and there will undoubtedly be debates and concerns raised about potential changes to Trust structures but the most important thing is that our world class tertiary services are here for all of our communities right across our region.
What has been brought home to me is that the work done by our superb clinicians is delivered not only at JCUH and at North Tees but in Hartlepool and Darlington. As now, and in the future, and regardless of management structures, it is the delivery of high-quality clinical services to all our people that really matters.
I once again want to say a huge thank you to all our NHS staff at JCUH and at every hospital and every GP surgery and all our medical facilities in all our communities across the Tees Valley, for all you have done and continue to do. Have a happy Christmas.