BRADFORD'S hospitals have said they are ready for all eventualities and expect Covid-19 patient numbers to rise in the coming days as Omicron continues its spread.

The chief executives of Bradford Teaching Hospitals and Airedale NHS Foundation Trusts have said while it remains to be seen how much of an impact rising case numbers will have, they expect the number of Covid deaths will rise in the coming weeks.

They have also said that non-urgent appointments may have to be postponed, many health and care staff are now changing Christmas plans in advance of increased pressure, and rules on visiting loved ones may change.

They also continue to urge people to get vaccinated or boosted "before it's too late".

Currently in the district, case numbers are trending upwards and at Bradford Teaching Hospitals patient numbers are at the lowest since July, but in Airedale - the area with the highest rates of infection in the district - patient numbers are on the up.

While the current picture here is good on the surface, health bosses have warned Bradford is about a week behind the situation in London - where case numbers are at their highest ever and the number of patients in hospital is at its highest since March.

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And with more than one in four people in Bradford currently still totally unvaccinated and only 36 per cent having had their booster jab - critical in fighting off Omicron - it means the risk of increased pressure on the NHS is heightened in the district.

In a joint statement Airedale and Bradford chief executives Brendan Brown and Mel Pickup, along with Sarah Muckle, Bradford Council's Director of Public Health, people were urged to take precautions to keep safe over the festive period.

They said: "We watch with increasing concern and a sense of déjà vu as we chart the rapid increase in Covid-19 transmissions as a result of the Omicron variant.

"This highly transmissible variant poses a significant threat to the health of our communities and will have a direct impact on health and care services.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Mel PickupMel Pickup

"We start and will end our statement by urging people to get vaccinated now, as it is our greatest line of defence.

"While for many people Covid-19 will be a nasty virus that their bodies will fight back against, for some people the impact is life changing or worse.

"Sadly, we have seen 1,500 deaths as a result of Covid across our district and we know we should expect more especially as it is too early to say how severe Omicron will be.

"At this point in time the numbers of people in hospital across Airedale and Bradford stands at 71 (19 in Airedale, 52 in Bradford). However we fully expect this number to rise based on the figures seen in London with our region around one week behind the trends seen in the capital.

"It remains to be seen what impact this will have on local health and care services but we are planning for all eventualities and this includes any sustained pressures on our staff, with absences resulting from colleagues falling ill.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Brendan Brown and Sarah MuckleBrendan Brown and Sarah Muckle

"This may mean that over the coming weeks we have to delay or suspend any non-urgent treatments. We would like to reassure people that we will still be there when you need urgent or emergency care but please do consider using the NHS 111 service before coming to A&E or using any other health service.

"We are doing all we can to ensure we can protect our colleagues, patients and visitors. This is likely to mean that we change our guidance for visitors coming to our hospitals.

"We do not take these decisions lightly as we know they have a significant impact on wider families, we would like to ask our communities to support us should we have to make any difficult decisions that result in changes to our guidance for visitors.

"We will of course look to be as flexible as possible and consider personal circumstances but the protection of our staff and patients will be our main priority.

"There are of course a lot of unknowns for the new variant but one thing we can say for certain is that we can all play a part in reducing the spread of Covid by taking relatively simple precautions.

"This includes taking sensible precautions when attending any social gatherings, wearing face coverings where asked to do so and continuing to practice good hand hygiene.

"We would like to thank our colleagues who continue to amaze us with their ongoing dedication and commitment to helping our patients, this includes our wider colleagues across health and care.

"Many are now changing their Christmas plans just so they can support our efforts including the vaccination programme. That’s why we want people to show they appreciate their efforts by doing all they can to prevent the spread of Covid and the latest variant of concern, by getting vaccinated and getting their booster jab if they are eligible for one.

"The single most effective line of defence is getting vaccinated.

"When we speak to our colleagues they often tell us that they are treating unvaccinated people with Covid - many under the age of 50 or women who are pregnant – asking to be vaccinated. At this point it is too late.

"Please we urge you to avoid this situation by getting vaccinated as soon as you can. For those who have already had two doses please make sure you get your booster jab.

"For those who need to have their first or second dose, please do come to one of our walk-in clinics. You will receive a warm welcome and we can answer any questions you have."