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‘Covid-19 isn’t going anywhere, anytime soon’: Hospital boss issues frank warning to staff

‘Unless we take these steps now we may find ourselves in an even more difficult situation over the coming weeks’

Shaun Lintern
Health Correspondent
Friday 27 August 2021 17:11 BST
Staff at Hull Royal Infirmary warned they face being redeployed to Covid wards again
Staff at Hull Royal Infirmary warned they face being redeployed to Covid wards again (PA)
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NHS staff have been warned they may be redeployed to care for Covid patients at a hospital in the northeast of England after a significant surge in Covid cases.

The chief executive of Hull University Teaching Hospitals Trust, Chris Long, told staff in a leaked message seen by The Independent that more operations would have to be postponed at Hull Royal Infirmary with new areas opened for Covid patients.

The hospital has already issued a warning to A&E patients that they face being turned away if they come to the hospital with non-urgent complaints after the trust reported 400 patients were being seen daily in the A&E with 100 able to go elsewhere.

Elsewhere on Friday, The Independent has learned a “makeshift” intensive care unit has been opened at the University Hospitals Coventry & Warwickshire Trust after a rise in Covid patients. The trust 59 Covid patients on Friday with 17 in intensive care.

The pressures are being mirrored across the country as coronavirus infections have risen in recent weeks, eliminating the fall seen at the end of July.

On Friday there were 5,889 Covid patients in English hospitals, down from 6,000 earlier in the week but there were still 843 patients in intensive care.

In a message to staff at the Hull Royal Infirmary on Thursday, chief executive Chris Long said: “We are once again experiencing significant pressure across the whole trust as a result of increased Covid admissions, staff absence, and attendances to our Emergency Department. Covid-19 isn’t going anywhere, anytime soon and we are going to have to get used to adapting to meet this ongoing challenge.”

He said the infection numbers were rising rapidly in the region and with schools returning he said this would continue.

“Firstly we will be reducing some elective activity, in order that we can create more capacity to care for and treat urgent and emergency patient cases, at the same time as safely manage the numbers of Covid patients who are presenting at hospital. This will be a temporary measure and we will contact all patients affected by this to reschedule their appointments at the earliest opportunity,” he said.

Alongside this he said one ward would be converted to a Covid specific area and expanding intensive care beds to a new area. He said nurse staffing levels would be reviewed.

Mr Long warned staff they would have to work in different ways adding: “Some staff will be asked to help support Covid ward areas. I know that this is a difficult message to receive and that many of you are physically and mentally tired. However, we believe that unless we take these steps now we may find ourselves in an even more difficult situation over the coming weeks with the return of pupils to schools and the likelihood of even greater infection rates in the community.

“Throughout the pandemic you have been asked repeatedly to step up and meet the challenges that have come our way. I’m sure I am no different to you in wishing this was all over but I’m afraid that isn’t the case and our duty continues to be preserving the safety of our patients and each other.

“Please look after one another.”

In recent weeks operations have been cancelled at hospitals across the country from the south of England to the north, in some cases including cancer patients.

Ambulance trusts have seen record levels of 999 calls with more than one million being made in July alone – the highest ever number.

A&E departments at the largest hospitals recorded record levels of attendances in June, their busiest month ever.

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