Shock as Northumberland hospital trust worker dies after testing positive for covid
The NHS trust running Northumberland’s hospitals lost its first member of staff to Covid-19 this week.
The loss was revealed by Sir James Mackey, chief executive of Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, as he provided an update on the pandemic to councillors.
Speaking at the Tuesday, February 2, meeting of the health and wellbeing committee, he said that Northumbria Healthcare was previously thought to be the last trust of its type not to have lost a team member and there had been hopes that the staff cohort would make it through without a death.
“The organisation is in a degree of shock today,” he added.
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The rest of his update focused on the ongoing efforts of staff to limit the worst impacts of coronavirus at a time when the trust recently hit its peak number of inpatients with Covid-19 towards the end of January – more than 180 beds out of a total of 793 across the trust’s hospitals.
Cases and deaths have been higher in the past five months compared to the first five months of the pandemic, but there are positives with the mortality rate reducing noticeably since the first wave of the pandemic, due to ‘better understanding and treatments’.
From April 1 to August 20 last year, the trust had 528 Covid admissions and 186 deaths (35.2%), while from September 1 to January 20, there were 1,451 admissions and 312 deaths (21.5%).
“There’s been a very significant increase in survival,” Sir James said. “Although patients tend to stay with us much longer than we expected at the start, which has an impact on capacity.”
Despite unprecedented pressure, A&E performance at the hospitals in Northumberland and North Tyneside has been among the best in the country ‘for pretty much every month of the year’.
Northumbria Healthcare met the national target for 95% of patients being seen within four hours at emergency departments in the first three quarters of 2020-21, something which has not been managed by any other trust in the North East or as an average across England.
The meeting also heard from Dr Graham Syers, clinical chair of NHS Northumberland Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), about the work of primary care.
Among the new developments, he highlighted that there are now clinics for ‘long Covid’ – with some patients experiencing symptoms and issues for many months – as well as a scheme enabling GP practices to distribute oximeters to patients so that they can monitor their own oxygen levels.
Collaboration was a key theme that Dr Syers, also a GP in Alnwick, returned to again and again, both in how the pandemic has been tackled so far and in relation to how it and related issues, such as mental health, will be dealt with going forward.