Health bosses set out plans to cope with Covid and flu cases this Christmas
NHS chiefs for Northumberland have insisted they are in “pretty much the best position in the country” as they brace for what is widely expected to be another tough winter.
While the return of pupils to school in September saw a small rise in positive cases, levels have so far remained fairly stable.
But impending fears of a double blow to health services caused by coronavirus and flu around the Christmas period has prompted bosses to attempt to reassure the public that preparations have been made.
“We’re in pretty much the best position in the country, both around our emergency activity and our elective activity and we want to try and maintain that as best as possible,” said Dr Simon Eaton, of Northumbria Healthcare Foundation Trust (NHFT).
“Obviously we’ve got certain pressures around Covid and potentially flu, so we’ll need to see how those play out together.
“But this does have an impact on [patient] flow and we’re trying to avoid crowding people into spaces and making sure they get the care they need.”
Speaking to Northumberland County Council’s Health and Wellbeing Overview and Scrutiny Committee, Dr Eaton outlined the trust’s focus on ensuring patients could be moved out of hospitals as soon as they are medically fit this winter, so beds can be freed up for new admissions.
While refurbishments at Alnwick Infirmary and Berwick Infirmary have put temporary pressure on wards, it is hoped that the work will help patients and staff cope better should cases surge.
And plans have also been drawn up to cancel elective surgeries and allocated beds to Covid patients, if needed.
While Covid-19 case rates for Northumberland appear to have fallen in recent weeks, there are signs of the potential for a tough winter, with the number of virus patients in hospital in the county hitting 49 at the end of September – the highest since March.
Alyson Raine, deputy director responsible for community hospitals at NHFT, said: “We’ve got plans in place and some of the refurbishment work we’re doing is to support that.
“We’re putting in extra bathrooms and toilets because we know there wasn’t enough, which means if we get an outbreak on a ward we can just close down a bay, rather than a whole ward.”