COLCHESTER Hospital’s boss has called on the people of Colchester to make a “little extra sacrifice” in the weeks leading up to Christmas in order to help ease the strain on the healthcare system.

Nick Hulme, chief executive of East Suffolk and North Essex Foundation Trust, which runs Colchester and Ipswich hospitals, said the situation regarding maintaining elective care services remains “really, really tight.”

He said just because rules were being relaxed at Christmas didn’t mean we should take advantage of them.

It comes as it was revealed almost a dozen new coronavirus deaths have been recorded at trust over the weekend.

NHS England figures show 438 people had died in hospital at East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust as of 5pm on Sunday.

That was an increase of ten compared to Friday, when there were 428.

It means there have been 21 deaths in the past week, up from 11 the previous week.

The trust was also caring for 129 coronavirus patients in hospital as of Tuesday, figures show. The data shows that the number of people being treated in hospital for Covid-19 by 8am on November 24 was up from 102 on the same day the previous week.

The number of beds at the trust occupied by people who tested positive for Covid-19 more than doubled in the last four weeks – 28 days ago, there were 63.

Speaking to BBC Suffolk yesterday morning, Mr Hulme said: “On the one hand of course we welcome the relaxation of the rules over Christmas.

“But just because we could, doesn’t mean that we should.

“What I am asking is that everyone just takes some time to have a conversation with their family, with their loved ones, with their various bubbles, just to say ‘it’s only one day, a couple of days, five days of the year.’

“We’ve done so well in terms of controlling the virus over the last nine or ten months.”

He added: “We are managing to maintain services around our elective work, but it is really, really tight.

“We’re so close, we’ve got some real optimistic news about the vaccine. We’re so close now to moving on, to getting back our normal lives, it would be a tragedy if we relaxed the rules too much, if we take too many risks over the Christmas period which set us back potentially months.”

Mr Hulme called for the public to take care with mixing households over Christmas, in order to allow for winter to pass and the pressure to ease.

He said: “Can we not just have one Christmas where we are with our immediate bubbles, just so we can enjoy that time, protect our loved ones and our communities.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said it is important to strike the “right balance” when deciding on coronavirus restrictions.

“Everything is a judgment, everything is a balance. Over Christmas families traditionally want to get together. That is going to happen to some extent whatever you do,” he said.

“It is very important to set out the rules to give people a clear understanding of what will work and the right balance to strike.”