'We're in for a tough couple of weeks': Northamptonshire hospitals struggling for beds after busiest week of the year so far

No let-up expected before Christmas for NHS staff as coronavirus and usual winter pressures take hold

By Jack Duggan
Friday, 11th December 2020, 5:13 pm
Updated Friday, 11th December 2020, 5:16 pm

Northamptonshire's two NHS hospitals are struggling for beds after the busiest week of the year so far with no let-up expected before Christmas.

The number of Covid-19 patients is steady but more patients than usual are being admitted for other ailments at Northampton and Kettering hospitals.

Bosses are also fighting to 'cover the gaps' of staff sicknesses and keep coronavirus and non-coronavirus areas separate.

More patients than usual are being admitted for other ailments at Northampton and Kettering hospitals

Kettering General Hospital chief executive Eileen Doyle told a virtual press conference today (Friday, December 11): "It's fair to say it's the busiest week we have had so far this year.

"At NGH, we have 167 positive patients, which is down and looking to plateau, and 90 at KGH, which is also going down.

"But admissions for other winter ailments are extraordinary. Just as an example, we usually admit 70-80 patients a day at KGH but yesterday we had 100.

"Both hospitals are struggling significantly for capacity and have done all week. We have plans in place to manage this but it's a challenge."

Kettering General Hospital chief executive Eileen Doyle during today's virtual press conference

KGH declared a critical incident because of its high levels of demand this week while deaths relating to coronavirus have been reported every day this week.

Currently, 11 patients are in the two intensive care units with Covid -19 and 11 non-Covid, which Ms Doyle believes shows the treatments are working as fewer people are getting seriously unwell.

They can stretch to 60 ICU beds if need be, as well as rely on help from other East Midlands hospitals, but the chief executive was confident of not reaching that limit.

"People are not getting as sick as we had worried about but nevertheless we would not want it to get any higher," she said.

Winter is always a busy time of the year for hospitals but Ms Doyle said the added pressure of coronavirus is making it uniquely difficult to manage.

The hospital boss explained that quite a lot of patients seem to be the older generation who would never bother the doctors even when they should.

So they try to manage issues at home but they get out of hand and they end up in the hospital, she added.

Usually, things settle down in time for the festive period but Ms Doyle feared the staff would be in for a busy time, especially as Covid-19 cases are rising again in Northamptonshire.

"Ordinarily we empty ourselves out before Christmas but I'm anxious about that not happening with Covid and people being unwell," she said.

"We're in for a tough couple of weeks, Christmas Eve is usually glorious but I don't think it will be empty this year."

Residents are urged not to be put off from seeking medical help and advice if they need it but to make sure to go to the right place for their level of emergency.

Hospitals, especially A&E departments, and GP services are very busy at the moment so a pharmacist or calling 111 may be a better option.

Ms Doyle said: "It is busy and challenging, everyone is working flat out with our partners but it's harder than we have seen so far but fingers crossed that will abate and it will get more under control."