THE region has been warned it will suffer from hospital bed shortages and more deaths if the Covid infection rate does not begin to fall.

Hospital executives from seven local authority areas warned a continued rise in hospitalisations from Covid will lead to fewer hospital beds, and “inevitably” excess deaths.

This afternoon, health bosses across County Durham, Newcastle, Gateshead, Sunderland, Northumberland, North and South Tyneside, issued the stern warnings as it emerged almost every part of the region has seen a rise in Covid cases in the past week.

SEE MORE: Almost EVERY part of North-East and North Yorkshire has seen rise in Covid cases in past week

In a joint-statement, health bosses told residents across the seven local authority not to attend A&E unless for serious or life-threatening emergencies.

The statement said: "Over the past few weeks, we have seen cases in our communities increasing and, as a result, hospital admissions are rising rapidly. Unfortunately, this is a trend we are likely to see continue going into winter.

"Our local hospitals are appealing to the public to only attend A&E if they have serious or life-threatening emergencies.

'This leads to worse outcomes, including deaths'

"We have learnt so much about Covid and how to treat it, but the virus remains a potent threat.

"The more Covid positive patients in hospital, the fewer beds and staff we have to treat other people. Inevitably this leads to worse outcomes, including, sadly, excess deaths.

SEE MORE: Council explains why Covid cases have risen in County Durham despite national lockdown

"The current lockdown is due to end on 2 December and what lies beyond that is unknown territory.

"It is just 14 days away, so we all need to continue reducing social contact and following the rules.

'It is about saving lives'

"We need to all remember why we are doing this. It is about saving lives and protecting the NHS to ensure it is not over run and able to cope with the demands on our services.  We need your support to ensure that all our services remain open and safe.  

"Our critical care units must be kept as free as possible to deal with those people who need it most for example, road traffic accidents, strokes and severe respiratory illnesses, just three examples. 

"What is equally important to remember is that the solutions sit with all of us, regardless of who you are and what you do. Very simple actions will ensure our NHS copes but also keeps you personally safe from infection. 

"We all have a responsibility to minimise the risk of infection. 

"If we do get infected, we all have a responsibility not to pass this on - especially to our parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents, indeed anyone in our family, or our friends and neighbours.

"News on vaccinations is encouraging but we are still a long way off from any one of them being administered as an effective defence."

The Northern Echo: The University Hospital of North Durham in Durham CityThe University Hospital of North Durham in Durham City

The statement this afternoon was issued by the chief executives of NHS Foundation Trusts for Newcastle Hospitals, Northumbria Healthcare, South Tyneside and Sunderland, Gateshead, County Durham and Darlington, the North East Ambulance Service, Cumbria Northumberland Tyne and Wear Mental Health, and North East and North Cumbria Integrated Care System Development.

It was also endorsed by local council leaders, the North of Tyne Mayor, the Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner, and the area’s Clinical Commissioning Groups.

The statement was issued as a North-East council suggested a rise in Covid infections had been down to a surge in those visiting towns and cities in the days leading up to the national lockdown.

SEE MORE: Council explains why Covid cases have risen in County Durham despite national lockdown

Amanda Healy, Director of Public Health at Durham County Council, made the comments as she suggested the national lockdown would still have a positive impact.

She said: “We’d like to thank everyone for the lengths they have gone to in trying to minimise the spread of coronavirus, particularly during this latest period of national restrictions which we appreciate have made life harder for us all.

The Northern Echo:

'High footfall in towns and cities'

“In the days leading up to the restrictions coming into force, the level of footfall in towns and city centres across the country was high.

“As in all parts of the country, this led to higher rates of infection across County Durham but the introduction of lockdown should mean we start to see these reduce.

Renewing her appeal, Ms Healy said it was up to everyone to adhere to the rules to avoid the region facing tougher restrictions, once the national lockdown ends on December 2.

She said: “It is important that we all follow these measures to help County Durham if we are to avoid coming out of the current national restrictions in a worse position than when we entered lockdown.

“We would appeal to everyone to play their part in stopping transmission of the virus by reducing social contacts and following the rules of Hands, Face, Space," she added.