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Covid: PCH under pressure as numbers rise

Peterborough City Hospital is experiencing severe pressure as Covid cases rise, says chief medical officer Dr Kanchan Rege.
Peterborough city hospital
Peterborough City Hospital under enormous stress as Covid numbers rise

Earlier this week, speaking to members of the North West Anglia Foundation Trust (NWAFT) Board of Governors at their meeting, Dr Rege gave the updated presentation on the situation: “PCH currently has 91 in-patients who are Covid-positive, and that puts us comfortably double the number of patients in our Sustainability and Transformation Plan (STP). 

“Interestingly, 47 of those patients are asymptomatic which means they have been identified as being Covid-positive as part of their admission process, even though they don’t have the clinical symptoms of Covid, but we still have to treat them as if they do with the same infection prevention and control measures. 

“Peterborough is an Enhanced Response Area (ERA) and we have a high community prevalence, which has played into our change with our visiting policy. 

“In the second-week of October we expanded visiting allowing one visitor per patient, the same visitor per day to come for one hour. 

“But patients are getting very frustrated because their relatives are not being allowed to visit, and it’s very difficult to keep up to date communications going. 

“Equally, because relatives are not allowed to be with the patient, we’re seeing a rise in the numbers of falls being reported, but because of the ERA and rising infections we’ve once again had to restrict these visitations. 

“Our staff are now 60% covered in terms of Flu and Covid booster jabs since they were introduced at the end of September, and we’re continuing our vaccination programme for the winter-period. 

“The winter plan involves recruitment to the Emergency Department enhanced discharge planning and occupational and physiotherapy support as well, keeping patients out of hospital if possible. 

“We’re also doing everything we can to speed-up the flow through the hospital to ensure speedy discharge – our current feeling is that PCH is short of beds, so we are linking-in with the Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) to see if we can identify any external beds that may be available. 

“Mandatory vaccinations have now come into effect for social care providers; however, some of our care provider partners have actually handed back their care packages as they are unable to provide the staff for these services, all of which has put additional pressure on the already stressed system. 

“We currently have about 125 patients at PCH at the moment who are ‘medically fit’ for discharge, but we can’t actually safely discharge them at the moment as the social care resources are not in place to take them on and look after them.” 

Phil Walmsley, NWAFT chief operating officer told the media in a statement: “We are in constant contact with the CCG, patients and the local medical committee and the GPs to update them on the current situation. 

“But it is a national situation, and I think that people are very aware of the situation which we find ourselves in. 

“I totally agree with the fact that the committees are raising that it’s not getting through the local and national media quite as much as we might like – the amount of stress that our trust is under. 

“I’m fully aware that we must do everything that we can to keep the pressure off the staff as best as we can, but patients are finding it more and more difficult to cope with all the delays even though they know the situation and what it means nationally. 

“We know that a lot of our staff read the local media and listen to BBC Radio Cambridgeshire and so we need to keep pressing the message through them that we are doing everything we can at the moment, and that members of our staff are moving to different areas of need when their own area is a little bit quieter perhaps. 

“But there is only so much that we can do in this kind of situation with the staffing that we have, and we must do everything we can as I have already said to reduce the effect of that pressure on them.” 

During a healthwatch meeting held via zoom on Thursday (November 25), Louisa Bullivant from Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Foundation Trust highlighted the pressures facing staff. 

She said: "The high prevalence of Covid cases in the population, and continued increases in Covid admissions, has continued to impact on the levels of operational activity and performance across all sectors of the health and care system.

"At the time of writing, November 24, there were over 150 Covid positive admitted patients in the health and care system. Four Covid positive patients in the Trust’s care, all being supported in their rehabilitation following acute admissions.

"The pressure on system resources continues to be amplified due to high non-Covid urgent care levels and this is resulting in delayed ability in core community physical health services to address the backlogs which developed during Covid. We also continue to see extremely high levels of demand and severity in Children's and Young People's Mental Health Services eating disorder services.

"We have continued to have Covid cases among staff and a high number of staff isolating because of household members having Covid. Again, this has impacted on service activity levels and our ability to recover activity levels."

She further added that 93% of staff are double vaccinated.

Inputs from Rob Alexander, Local Democracy Reporting Service