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King's Lynn hospital boss warns hardest period of coronavirus crisis could be yet to come



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Hospital bosses in Lynn have warned the next few weeks could be the most testing yet of the fight against the coronavirus.

The sobering message comes as the number of Covid-related deaths recorded at the Gayton Road site passed 400 this week.

Although no new fatalities were reported in yesterday’s daily update from NHS England, nine fatalities were reported on Saturday, all of which occurred last Wednesday and Thursday.

King's Lynn's Queen Elizabeth Hospital (44258285)
King's Lynn's Queen Elizabeth Hospital (44258285)

It means a total of 403 people have now died at the Gayton Road site after testing positive for Covid-19 since the pandemic began last March.

Of those, 160 have died since the start of the new year, including 17 recorded in the first week of February.

In her latest report to the hospital’s board of directors, which met last Tuesday, chief executive Caroline Shaw said the hospital had endured a “uniquely busy period” because of the rise in infections and the extent to which the virus was affecting staff.

Caroline Shaw, chief executive of Lynn's Queen Elizabeth Hospital. Photo: Joshua Yates (26250537)
Caroline Shaw, chief executive of Lynn's Queen Elizabeth Hospital. Photo: Joshua Yates (26250537)

She wrote: “Despite the positive signs of a consistent reduction in COVID-19 patients over the last week, we remain cautious and fully focused, with a Gold and Silver command structure and response in place.

“Our modelling predicts that the next few weeks could be our most challenging yet and when our capacity is likely to be at its most stretched, with over half of our beds expected to be occupied by COVID-19 patients.”

Mrs Shaw said the hospital was now treating patients from outside its main service area, while a number of staff have also been sent to help colleagues at the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital.

She said: “We have explored every available option to maximise our staffing position and support for the wards in the weeks to come, which are likely to be even more challenging still.

“Staff have recently been contacted to invite further help in various ways. All nurses, midwives, AHPs, doctors, dentists and clinical staff who are not presently working clinically will be asked to spend time supporting wards.

“We are contacting our volunteers to ask that they help us, including with administrative functions

“We have also been asked to support the wider region, recognising we are one National Health Service, which will see some of our critical care nurses working in the critical care surge centre in Norwich.

“At QEH, we are caring for a number of out of area patients on our ITU due to pressures elsewhere.”

Mrs Shaw also highlighted the hospital’s new dedicated patient helpline, which was set up last month, in an attempt to make communication easier between patients and their families who are unable to visit them in hospital due to the current restrictions.

She said: “We know how difficult it is for relatives who are unable to visit their loved ones due to the restrictions in place as a result of COVID-19 and we appreciate that we need to do more to improve communication and make it as easy as possible for patients’ relatives to receive timely updates and to share messages with their loved ones.”

Overall case numbers in West Norfolk are still falling, though the rate of decline here appears to be slower than the rest of the county.

Figures for the seven days to last Tuesday, February 2, showed there were 440 confirmed cases in the borough, down by 63, or 12.5 per cent on the previous week with a rolling infection rate of 290.7 cases per 100,000 people. That remains well above average.

But while North Norfolk saw a similar week on week decline, the figure for Breckland was down by more than 25 per cent on the previous week.

There was also a slight rise in cases in South Holland, with greater accelerations in other areas of Lincolnshire.



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