NHS under pressure as Covid rates in Northumberland hit record high
Covid case numbers in Northumberland are at their highest level since the pandemic began.
A record 6,186 positive cases were recorded in the county in the week to January 2 as the surge in the Omicron variant together with increased mixing over the festive period takes effect.
Covid infection rates are also at their highest yet with 1,910 positive cases per 100,000 population.
Every council ward in Northumberland, with the exception of Rothbury, now has an infection rate of over 1,000 per 100,000.
Rates are highest in Hexham, Prudhoe, Ponteland and parts of Berwick, Cramlington and Blyth.
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The rapid rise in cases, with daily case numbers four times higher than they were in mid-December, is putting increased pressure on NHS services.
Across the North East and North Cumbria (NENC), there were 646 patients in hospitals with Covid-19 on January 3 – 8% of hospital beds across NENC
The number of patients in hospital with Covid-19 has increased by 137% since December 24.
As of January 2, hospital workforce sickness due to Covid-19 had increased from 1.7% to 4% since December 24.
Neil Halford, medical director for the NENC Integrated Care System, said: “GP practices, ambulance services and hospital trusts across the North East and north Cumbria continue to work under extreme and increasing pressure.
"This is due to rising staff absence levels due to sickness and the need for staff to self-isolate, increasing numbers of patients being admitted with Covid-19 and dealing with usual winter pressures.
“Our services and hospitals are doing all they can to manage these pressures and to minimise any impact the best they can. To continue to protect hospital staff and patients, visiting restrictions are being maintained or strengthened and people should check individual trust websites to find out the latest position.
“All staff across the health system are working very hard to care for patients during what is a very difficult time and we thank each of them for their continued effort, flexibility and dedication.
"Hospital trusts are continually reviewing their planned operations and procedures alongside caring for the sickest patients and ensuring infection prevention control measures can be adhered to. This a difficult balancing act and regrettably some planned operations and procedures may need to be postponed.”
The medical director is also urging people to take up the offer of a Covid-19 vaccine as well as following the rules to reduce the spread of the virus.
Mr Halford said: “GP practices have done and continue to do a phenomenal job, with the added pressure of helping to deliver one of the largest vaccination programmes in the history of the NHS.
"Demand for their services is very high and they too are having to deal with increasing staff absences. To support GP practices people should please consider if a pharmacist can help deal with their health need or give advice in the first instance.
“Our plea to the public is to please continue to look after each other and reduce the risk of spreading Covid-19 among families, friends and in local communities.
“The NHS is here to care for people and people should not delay seeking medical advice and help if they need it, but we ask them to think carefully about which service they access.”