Pressure on healthcare in Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire is finally easing after the latest Covid surge. The number of patients with coronavirus at University Hospitals of North Midlands has started to fall after a peak of 300 on April 19, reaching 231 on Tuesday.
On the same day, there were no Covid patients at all in mechanical ventilation beds for the first time since last June. Reductions in staff sickness rates and a slight fall in demand since Easter have also contributed to an improving situation.
But NHS officials, who gave an update to Stoke-on-Trent city councillors, said they would now have to ‘run hard’ to get ready for winter and the next Covid wave. Stoke-on-Trent City Council’s health and social care scrutiny committee heard that, while the latest Covid surge had seen far fewer deaths than previous waves, it had still presented an ‘immense challenge’ to services.
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Peter Axon, interim designate chief executive of Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent Integrated Care System, explained this was due to a number of factors, including staff absence rates of up to 30 per cent and infection control measures reducing bed capacity. He said: “So thank heavens over the last week or so we’ve seen a reduction, to some extent, in pressure.
“And that’s mostly obvious stuff predicated on the: the prevalence of Covid in the community, and getting beyond Easter, which is traditionally a pressure point for the NHS and social care. But I wouldn’t want to paint a picture that we’re out of the woods, because we aren’t.
“As was described to me by a director of public health, Covid is a bit like a sine wave, and will be for the next period of time, which comes and goes, ebbs and flows, but those peaks will come again. We will have to mitigate and manage future peaks.
“Fingers crossed future variants won’t be severe, but still there’s a lot of work still to do around implementing mitigations and making sure we’re in the best possible position we can be entering in the autumn. Fingers crossed the next surge won’ t be before then.”
The committee was told about various measures being implemented by the local NHS aimed at reducing admissions to acute hospitals, improving the flow of patients through hospitals once admitted, and ensuring they can be discharged in a timely manner. These measures have included promotion of the NHS 111 service and increases in the capacity of community services, the recruitment of more senior decision-makers in A&E to cut waiting times, and extra NHS funding for domiciliary care.
Mr Axon added: “We’ve got a small window now to take a little bit of a step back, reflect on what’s gone well and not so well over the last surge, and also reflect on preventative action. All that stuff is key over the next three, four, five months. If we don’t run hard the next winter will be even worse, if that’s possible.”
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