We would like to start by extending our thanks to each and every one of you for working so hard to provide care and support to our communities during these last few challenging months and over the Easter and May Bank Holidays. Whether you have been working on the front line or working in an administrative role, we wholeheartedly appreciate the effort and dedication you all have demonstrated to deliver quality care and services in these most challenging of circumstances.

As you know our system has been experiencing huge operational pressures, and we as a leadership team know that everyone has been working under very difficult circumstances for several months. Our system has been at the highest level of alert since 26 January when our system stepped down from Critical Incident status, and we have been operating under unprecedented pressures since December. We recognise the continued stress and strain that this has put on colleagues, and we want you to know that we remain grateful for all your efforts and contributions.

After the Easter period the wider health and care system has begun to see some small but important improvements in the markers that have kept us at the highest level of alert, including a reduction of patients with COVID-19 infection rates, improvements in staff sickness rates, and a slow but steady increase in the number of medically fit patients who are being discharged from our acute hospitals back to their homes or into appropriate care in the community. Therefore, it is with immense gratitude and cautious optimism that we are pleased to report that our health and care system stepped down one level of alert on 21 April.

Please be assured, this move down to a lower alert level in no way masks the exceptional pressures that we know many of our colleagues and providers continue to experience, and that much work remains to be done to support and improve patient journeys through the health and care system. That said, our system is no longer meeting the markers to stay at the highest level of alert, and that is a tremendous achievement.

We will be continually monitoring pressures across the system and will respond quickly should this operational picture change. We continue to face high levels of demand at the front door of acute hospitals, alongside issues with patient flows and discharge from hospitals. We recognise that partners in other areas of the system are also facing high levels of demand and pressure, including mental health services, the voluntary community and social enterprise sector, domiciliary care, and others.

We are working collaboratively to make the necessary improvements to continue to reduce our operational pressures. This includes projects to improve our ambulance response times for patients in the community and reduce handover delays at hospital, using our Reservist staff to support in key emergency care areas, and an ongoing focus on discharge from hospital including support to our social care providers to help improve timely hospital discharge.

We are incredibly grateful for the commitment and dedication of all colleagues who have been supporting and providing care for local people and communities over this challenging period. The contributions you have made so far have been extraordinary – and we wanted to let you know these efforts are recognised and appreciated.

With best wishes and continued thanks.

  • Tracey Bleakley, Chief Executive-designate, Norfolk and Waveney Integrated Care Board
  • James Bullion, Executive Director of Adult Social Care, Norfolk County Council
  • Stephen Collman, Chief Executive, Norfolk Community Health and Care Trust
  • Sue Cook, Executive Director of People Services, Suffolk County Council
  • Sam Higginson, Chief Executive, Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
  • Jo Segasby, Chief Executive, James Paget University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
  • Ian Hutchison, Chief Executive, East Coast Community Healthcare CIC
  • Stuart Keeble, Director of Public Health, Suffolk County Council
  • Stuart Richardson, Chief Executive, Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust
  • Caroline Shaw, Chief Executive, Queen Elizabeth Hospital King’s Lynn NHS Foundation Trust
  • Dr Louise Smith, Director of Public Health, Norfolk County Council
  • Sara Tough, Executive Director of Children and Young People’s Services, Norfolk County Council