A ‘major incident’ has been declared in Northamptonshire due to rising Covid-19 cases, but the forum behind the decision has said it is a ‘proactive’ measure to get ahead of an ‘expected surge’.
Northamptonshire Resilience Forum, which includes the NHS, councils, police and fire services, today (January 7) announced the decision following a meeting between the agencies held yesterday (January 6).
Covid-19 cases are already rising in the county as nearly 13,000 new positive tests have been reported across Northamptonshire during the last seven days up to Thursday (January 6), however the forum is predicting a further surge, which would strain services even more.
Speaking at a virtual press briefing today, Darren Dovey, head of the forum, said the move will allow ‘greater co-ordination’ between the public agencies so they can share ‘information and intelligence’ and so staff can move around to other services, if needed.
Mr Dovey said: “There has been pressure in all systems over Christmas and we had our first meeting (all agencies together) yesterday after monitoring figures across the Christmas period.
“We collectively felt that we were all in a situation where we are struggling with staff shortages.
“The projection for the next couple of weeks is a rise in hospital admissions and additional pressure on social care, so co-ordination will be required over the next few weeks.
“It will make it easier for us to help each other.
“It is a proactive move to keep the public as safe as we can and to protect people who are most in need.
“The fire service has been driving ambulances and other tasks since early 2020, but that will be ramped up over the next couple of weeks.
“Hopefully it will be for a relatively short period of time; until we can get over this spike.”
Simon Weldon, group chief executive for the county’s hospitals, added that the move was made to ‘get ahead of the curve’, as Kettering General Hospital currently has 55 Covid patients and Northampton 95, but that they are expecting a further rise in hospital patients in the ‘next two to three weeks’.
The hospital boss says these extra Covid patients are on top of the ‘usual winter pressures’ and the staff shortages.
According to Mr Weldon, across the trust, around nine percent of staff are currently off, with around half of those absences being Covid-19 related.
Mr Weldon said: “We are increasingly stretched in terms of keeping all the balls in the air that we would hope to at this time of year.
“The hospital is part of a wider system and it is affecting everyone in our community.
“It is the right time for us to call this as a county so we can get ahead of the curve, prior to the surge we believe is coming.”
Hospitals are working towards additional bed capacity and non-urgent, routine appointments will be deferred.
However, the hospital boss was keen to encourage any cancer or urgent treatment patients to keep attending hospitals and not to feel scared about going into the setting, as was seen during the first wave of the pandemic.
The announcement comes just a day after Prime Minister Boris Johnson visited the county and said that the situation in the NHS 'will get better quite soon'.
Mr Dovey says the forum will continue to communicate with central government to see if there is any other support that can be offered. He also said he hoped the major incident declaration would ‘send a signal’ to central government.