TIRED STAFF: New vaccines plea amid hospital’s perfect storm
The Royal Victoria Infirmary, Newcastle, Image: NCJ Media
A new plea has been issued for people in Newcastle to get their Covid-19 vaccination and help ease shocking pressures on the city’s “incredibly tired” NHS staff.
Hospital bosses have spoken again this week of unprecedented strain at the Royal Victoria Infirmary (RVI), with record numbers of patients coming through A&E and some facing distressing waits of up to 13 hours for a bed.
The hospital’s Covid wards are consistently caring for around 75 patients at any time, two-thirds of whom are not fully vaccinated, and more than 90,000 people are on the Newcastle Hospitals Trust’s waiting lists – with the string of problems creating a “perfect storm” before the worst of the winter months have even arrived.
Newcastle City Council leader Nick Forbes said on Wednesday that the intense struggles at the RVI were “clearly cause for concern and we have to do what we can to avoid any unnecessary pressure on our local NHS services”.
He told a meeting of the Newcastle City Futures Board that it was “never too late” to get a vaccine, adding: “If you haven’t then please do. It is not just about protecting you, it is about protecting our NHS at a time when it is under severe pressure already in the winter.”
Latest figures show that only 72.5% of people in the city aged 12 and over have had their first dose of a Covid vaccine and 65.1% a second – far short of the national averages of 88% and 80.1 respectively.
Of those eligible to receive a booster jab, only 58% in Newcastle have come forward so far.
Coun Forbes said: “We are heading to the more difficult months in the winter, where we know people spend more time indoors and there is more likelihood of diseases like this spreading.
“It is really important that we continue to ask people to do things like wear face coverings, to socially distance where they can, to be respectful of others, and to come forward and get a booster when they are eligible.
“Those measures are the things that will protect the greatest number of people.”
Caroline Docking, the hospitals trust’s assistant chief executive, told the meeting of city leaders that the numbers of patients coming through the RVI’s emergency department are “higher than we have ever seen and continue to grow week by week” – with the “marginal impacts” of the pandemic on all the hospital’s services creating a “perfect storm”.
She added: “What we are seeing coming through the emergency department has changed as well, the patients coming through are very poorly. We are seeing a much higher proportion of people who are very unwell and a higher proportion of people coming through the emergency department who need to be admitted to hospital.
“Obviously those people who are very unwell need to be our priority, at a time when we have very long waiting lists for people who have waited because of Covid. The impact of the pandemic is still very much on our minds.
“We also have an incredibly tired workforce, who have not only been affected by what they have been through over the past two years but are still experiencing the same things the rest of us are – children coming home from school with Covid and having to isolate with them, concerns about family members.”
Ms Docking praised hospital staff for their hard work caring for patients and for taking time to explain the hospitals’ struggles to the public.
She added: “We have been very consistent about those messages on what people can do to help: wearing a mask where you can, particularly in hospital premises but also in places that are busy and congested, and getting vaccinated.
“Two-thirds of the people we have consistently had in hospital have not had a full course of vaccination, so that is the single most important thing you can do to keep yourself well.”
Words: Daniel Holland, Local Democracy Reporter
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