The combination of flu outbreaks, norovirus and the Beast from the East ensured that there were ‘unprecedented pressures’ in 2017-18.
And at its meeting last Thursday, Northumberland County Council’s health and wellbeing board heard what is being done by Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the area’s hospitals, to manage pressure this year.
The indications are that it could be very busy once again, with activity up 12 per cent so far this year, which is estimated to become 20 per cent by winter.
The trust’s chief operating officer, Helen Ray, explained that there were four themes in the plan – accident and emergency, including ambulance handover delays; freeing up beds by the end of December; flu vaccinations; and norovirus testing.
Specific proposals at hospitals include designated infection-control wards, a short-stay facility in ward seven at Cramlington, reconfiguring the wards at North Tyneside so that inpatients are in one place, trying to expand bed numbers at Wansbeck, and maximising use of the Whalton Unit, in Morpeth, and Royal Quays, in North Shields.
Ms Ray said that it is important to remember elective and outpatients as well, but the trust’s hospitals will be having reset days, before Christmas and in the first two weeks of January, when there will be a planned reduction in activity.
Ben O'Connell, Local Democracy Reporting Service