A doctor in North Lincolnshire has called for more restrictions as cases of coronavirus rise, and staffing levels are being tested in the county.
The pressures are being felt across the county with the infection rate in North Lincolnshire understood to be around three times higher than it was before Christmas, but further restrictions have yet to be issued.
Although Northern Lincolnshire and Goole NHS Foundation Trust, which has hospitals in Grimsby, Scunthorpe and Goole, is experienced very busy levels it has not declared a critical incident, and is advising people to think carefully about whether they need to come to A&E. It has staff shortages, but is continuing with its elective work at this time. However, the trust has suspended visiting to all but its most vulnerable patients – see more details here.
Dr Satpal Shekhawat, Medical Director at North Lincolnshire CCG, told BBC Look North: “From my medical point of view, I want to have the best chance to look after people. I think, in my personal view, when the numbers are that high, when the staffing levels are so low, more stricter restrictions would be a welcome to change the national health system.”
Boris Johnson is excepted to give a statement to parliament at around 4pm on Wednesday, January 5 regarding changes to coronavirus rules. When asked if the Mr Johnson has got it wrong and should’ve done more, the doctor said: “I think feeling on the ground is such that we cannot keep looking after people when we are understaffed and that increases risk levels. We do need something, the number is 220,000 new cases today (Tuesday, January 4), increasing hospital admissions, we definitely need more stricter actions.”
Meanwhile, Lincolnshire MP Matt Warman believes the critical incident at ULHT to go on for some time and told BBC Look North: “The pressure on staff numbers really does continue to be very acute indeed. What you’re looking at is staff absence levels of around 10%.”
United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs hospitals in Lincoln, Boston and Grantham, recent declared a critical incident after ‘extreme’ staff shortage. It was later revealed that over 600 Lincolnshire hospital staff were off sick with coronavirus every day in the run up the Christmas.
ULHT has taken additional steps to maintain services, including asking staff to work extra shifts, changing staff to patient ratios, and redeploying staff. It has reassured the public and patients that essential services remain fully open for anyone who needs them.
Healthwatch Lincolnshire is monitoring the situation and the watchdog’s CEO Sarah Fletcher told BBC Look North: “Whether that is at one of the Lincolnshire hospitals that United Lincolnshire Hospital Trust cover, or whether that’s to be referred outside of county, that is our absolute priority, that if people need urgent treatment that they get it in a timely fashion and it meets there needs.”
Dr Colin Farquharson, ULHT Medical Director, said: “As a result of significant staffing pressures due to absence related to COVID-19, we are having to take additional steps to maintain services.
“Our staff continue to work exceptionally hard and we would like to reassure our patients and the public that in spite of the challenges faced, essential services remain fully open for anyone who needs them, so people should continue to come forward for care. People can help us to help them by getting their COVID booster vaccine to protect themselves and their families and reduce pressure on health services.”