Northamptonshire's hospitals are under stress faced with winter coupled with coronavirus pandemic

Every winter comes with extreme pressure for hospitals - but together with the coronavirus pandemic, it's set to be a tough couple of months...

By Alastair Ulke
Tuesday, 8th December 2020, 11:11 am
Northamptonshire's hospitals are faced with months of the usual winter pressures coupled with the stress of the coronavirus pandemic.
Northamptonshire's hospitals are faced with months of the usual winter pressures coupled with the stress of the coronavirus pandemic.

Pressure is building at Northamptonshire's two public hospitals as healthcare staff face the stress of winter pressures coupled with the coronavirus pandemic.

Northampton and Kettering General Hospital set out a direct appeal to members of the public over the weekend urging them to only visit in an emergency because they were dealing with "very high demand" over December 5 and 6.

This came after chief executive Simon Weldon reported on Friday that the two hospitals were running at 94 per cent bed capacity and were scarce for room in its critical care for its most seriously ill patients.

Unfortunately, hospitals in Northamptonshire and the UK are used to extreme workloads between November and March under what are known as "winter pressures".

Previous winters in Northampton have seen A&E swamped with more than 400 patients in a day, with the hospital running at the highest level of stress - Opel 4 - for weeks at a time.

In 2020, the coronavirus pandemic in fact caused a reduction in caseload at Northampton and Kettering's A&E. But in recent months, pressure has begun to build again.

Now, the hospital has reported more factors that mean there are even more patients presenting with less staff to look after them.

Papers from the hospital group's executive board meeting on November 26 reported that:

- In October, sickness rates among staff had increased for the third consecutive month to 4.8 per cent

- On November 18, there were 175 members of staff absent due to Covid-19 and self-isolation. As of this week (December 8) 200 staff are off due to Covid by either self-isolating for have tested positive.

- The top two reasons for non-Covid related absence were stress & anxiety and musculoskeletal causes - typically back, leg and muscle ache.

Additionally, this week staff absences reportedly fell to around 5.5 per cent out of 10,000 staff across both hospitals.

Meanwhile, last week, NGH and KGH staff were reportedly offered bonuses in line the pay band above them if they put in for bank shifts over the next two weeks to help the hospital deal with extra pressure.

It comes ahead of Northampton General being allocated as one of the 'hub' hospitals for the rollout of the coronavirus vaccine, which is likely to cause a influx of visits to the hospital as residents are called to receive a jab while adding to logistical stresses.

All this has led to the appeal over the weekend asking patients: "Please remember A&E is here for urgent and immediately life-threatening cases... Please share this message."

Chief executive Simon Weldon said: "Our teams are working incredibly hard while both sites are experiencing high demand. We are caring for a large number of Covid-positive patients and winter pressures mean we are also looking after many very poorly non-Covid patients.

"It is important that we do all we can to stick to the rules on Covid – wash your hands more frequently, wear a mask or face covering and maintain social distancing. It is also important people do all they can to keep themselves fit and healthy and that they seek medical care early, rather than risking becoming seriously ill and needing care in one of our hospitals.”