Critical incident declared as Norfolk NHS battles with 'unprecedented pressure' amid soaring coronavirus infections
NHS leaders in Norfolk and Waveney have declared a critical incident in response to what they say is "unprecedented pressure" on health and care services in the region.
The move has been confirmed by the region's clinical commissioning group (CCG) this afternoon, following initial reports late last night.
It follows similar declarations by several other health organisations in recent days, as the service battles to cope with rising coronavirus infections and hospitalisations.
Latest figures show there were 2,197 confirmed Covid cases in West Norfolk alone during the week to yesterday – up by nearly 79 per cent on the previous week.
Thirty-two patients are currently being treated for the virus at Lynn's Queen Elizabeth Hospital, up by seven on the most recently published figure for the week to Boxing Day. One of them is said to be in intensive care.
And a new Covid-related death, which occurred on Boxing Day, has been recorded in the latest figures published today. It takes the total death toll at the QEH since the start of the pandemic to 530.
CCG chief nurse Cath Byford said today: “Health and care services are under unprecedented pressure and we are working closely with our system partners and colleagues to keep services running and to create extra capacity to deal with the rise in demand for services.
"We are seeing large numbers of very unwell people requiring 999 ambulance services and urgent hospital care.
"There are also ongoing challenges in discharging patients who are well enough to leave hospital, and we are seeing an increase in staff sickness - all of which leads to longer waits than we would like for patients to be seen and admitted.
"Because of these pressures, the health and care system in Norfolk and Waveney has declared a critical incident.
"This allows us to be able to take additional steps to maintain safe services for our patients and help us cope with the growing pressures."
The statement continued: "Key actions include creating additional bed capacity in our hospitals and in the community, continuing to support the safe and timely discharge of people who no longer need to stay in hospital, providing additional support to care homes to avoid unnecessary hospital admissions and redeploying staff where help is needed most.
"Patient safety must take priority and we need to take action to make sure that those who are more clinically urgent get the help they need as quickly as possible.
"This means that many patients in less urgent need of care may have to wait longer than we would like. We apologise to those patients and ask for their understanding during this time of exceptional pressures.
"Our teams continue to work exceptionally hard; and we would like to reassure our patients and the public that in spite of the challenges, essential services remain fully open for anyone who needs them so if you require urgent medical help, please continue to come forward.
"The public can help us manage these periods of demand by ensuring they are seeking help from the most appropriate health services, and only attending A&E for serious accidents and emergencies. If you are unwell, visit NHS 111 online for 24/7 advice about the most appropriate care for your needs.
"Getting your COVID-19 vaccination is the best way to protect yourself and reduce the risk of hospital admission as we move into January when respiratory infections often peak.
"Across the country we’re seeing infection rates rise and we are urging people to keep up the basics with thorough hand washing, wearing face coverings as per the national guidance and ventilating rooms as much as possible.
"This also helps protect people against other seasonal bugs such as norovirus and flu.
"We want to thank all our staff for going above and beyond during an extremely difficult and demanding time for the NHS."