A doctor is warning people not to take nurses away from caring for the sick by calling in asking about loved ones or seeking advice.
Hospitals across East Yorkshire are under mounting pressure as they increase their efforts to tackle coronavirus.
Now Consultant in Emergency Medicine Dr Alastair Pickering, says nursing staff are being waylaid by answering queries from members of the public.
Dr Pickering said: “We understand it is incredibly difficult for patients and their loved ones right now, at a time when social distancing rules mean we have all but stopped hospital visiting altogether.
“The decision to restrict visiting wasn’t taken lightly, but it was taken to help limit the spread of coronavirus within our community and, crucially, to protect vulnerable patients and the invaluable frontline health workers whom we need to care for them.
Watch: How Hull hospitals will cope with coronavirus surge
“What we have seen in recent days and weeks is a growing number of calls coming in to the hospital, either asking for patient updates because of the visiting restrictions, or simply asking for general medical advice.
“While coronavirus is a worry for all of us, we would really ask for the public’s help in keeping these kinds of calls to a minimum. This will enable our healthcare staff to focus on the patients in our immediate care who really need us the most right now.”
The call comes as Hull University Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs Hull Royal Infirmary and Castle Hill Hospital in Cottingham, has outlined its plans to respond to the expected increase in COVID-19 positive patients requiring hospital care.
The trust’s surge plan will see specialist wards created, critical care capacity tripled and staff retrained and redeployed to bolster areas in need of support, such as critical care and respiratory medicine.
There are also 700 former NHS workers coming out of retirement to lend their support.
Simon Nearney, director of workforce and organisational development at the trust, said: “We understand that people need clinical advice about symptoms and how to treat them but members of the public should contact 111.
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“Our frontline staff do not have the time at present to deal with general medical queries or multiple requests about the same patient in our care.
“Our receptionists and switchboard staff are also experiencing high levels of calls but can only redirect people seeking medical advice to the most appropriate service which is NHS111.
“Please help our staff to do what they do best, and that’s care for the sick and vulnerable. If you are concerned about coronavirus or any other medical condition, please use the NHS 111 online service or telephone 111 direct, or contact your GP surgery. Please do not call the hospital.”