Kimberley Salmon-Jamieson is chief Nurse and Deputy Chief Executive at Warrington and Halton Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

In this column, she explains the effect of the latest coronavirus wave on Warrington Hospital and what bosses are doing to keep everyone as safe as possible

At Warrington and Halton Teaching Hospitals (WHH) we have been treating a greater number of patients with Covid-19 than at the peak of the pandemic’s first wave. It has been extremely challenging for us all and sadly, although we now know more about Covid-19, it has been devastating for us to see another rise in deaths with all the heartbreak this brings for families.

I am so proud of and thankful to our staff who have worked extremely hard during this period, going above and beyond in extremely challenging conditions.

We have been committed to maintaining as much of our elective surgery as possible whilst ensuring we can continue to deliver cancer procedures and urgent care for all patients.

However, like other Cheshire and Merseyside hospitals, we need to to ensure sufficient intensive care capacity is available at the same time as maintaining cancer treatment and urgent care.

Consequently, like many other trusts, we have introduced a short pause to procedures for some patients waiting for routine, non-urgent care.

This is not what any of us wanted, and this is a temporary measure which is reviewed very regularly. All affected patients have been contacted and rescheduled.

It is also important to know what other steps we are taking to keep our hospitals safe. Outpatient appointments, where patients are agreeable, are being switched to telephone or video consultations.

Visiting restrictions introduced earlier in the pandemic remain in place and details are available on our website

There are limited exceptions, including for patients at the end of their life and those in intensive care as well as for some maternity services and parents visiting children.

We know how difficult this is for patients and their loved ones, so we support a ‘FLOgram’ service which enables us to print messages from family and friends for patients on the wards. This can be done using the Contact a Patient form on our website.

It is important that people have confidence to come forward for treatment when they need it.

To keep patients requiring urgent diagnostics and surgery safe we have ‘green pathways’ and Halton Hospital is our designated ‘Covid-lite’ site. No patient who has tested positive for Covid-19 is being treated here and it has proved successful. All patients are tested in the days prior to surgery and additional checks are carried out on admission day. We have been supported in our pre-operative testing by our partners Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service and we extend our thanks once again.

Warrington and Halton Teaching Hospitals was also one of the first places in the region to introduce a new process supporting NHS 111 to book appointment slots for people needing urgent care.

This new process will soon be the subject of a national advertising campaign encouraging people to contact NHS 111 first if they need urgent - not emergency - NHS care. Appointments can be booked at Widnes and Runcorn Urgent Care Centres and at Warrington Emergency Department (A&E), for those who are most seriously ill or injured.

We are doing everything we can to keep patients and staff in our hospitals safe and to ensure that those most needing treatment are able to receive it.

Our ask of local residents is to do everything you can to minimise the spread of the COVID-19 virus by washing your hands regularly, wearing a face covering when required and maintaining distance from people outside your own household.

Please follow the guidance, stay safe and help us to help you.