THE head of nursing at Southampton’s biggest hospital has issued a plea to residents to keep protecting the NHS.

Chief Nursing Officer and Director of Infection Prevention and Control at University Hospital Southampton, Gail Byrne, has written an open letter to the city’s residents thanking them for their efforts throughout the pandemic and asking them to not to give up yet.

She has been backed by the city’s MPs who say that we must “remain vigilant”.

Ms Byrne said: “Firstly, I want to thank you. Your efforts over the last year have made a real difference.

“The difficult and very real sacrifices you’ve made have helped keep the wider community and our hospital as safe as it could be and enabled our staff to continue to carry out the vital work of caring for the sickest amongst us.

“We are all looking forward to a brighter future, thanks to the amazing success of the vaccination roll-out.

“But, with the imminent easing of lockdown, I need to be honest and let you know that the hospital is not out of the woods just yet.

“After a period of seeing no admissions with COVID-19, we have seen a small number of younger adults being admitted and treated in our hospital, who have not yet been fully vaccinated.

“We also know that cases in the local community have increased significantly and that it’s the Delta variant, which is significantly more transmissible, that’s now dominant.

“With this increase in community cases, we ask you to continue to follow the Government guidance and adhere to the continued restrictions in our hospitals which need to remain in place, even after lockdown has been lifted.

“There is a very real danger of an increase in hospital admissions and our COVID ZERO campaign remains critical to our efforts to protect you, your loved ones, our patients and staff.

“We need your support to help us continue to recover our vital services and tackle the backlog of increased waiting lists, that have been a tragic outcome of the pandemic.”

She finished her letter by inviting residents to attend an event on July 7 at 6pm on ‘Insights into the Delta variant and how testing can prevent the spread’.

Southampton Itchen MP Royston Smith said: “Until we bring Covid-19 under control, we must remain vigilant.

“While we may be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel these additional infections show we are not out of the woods yet.”

Alan Whitehead, MP for Southampton Test, added: “I would agree with Gail Byrne’s recent letter urging people to continue to stick to the current restrictions.

“I would also urge anyone who has not already done so to get their vaccination as having more people vaccinated is our best chance of being able to ease restrictions in July.”