NHS trust calls for help amid fears hospitals will be overwhelmed

NHS trust calls for urgent help caring for Covid patients amid fears a ‘perfect storm’ caused by the new strain will overwhelm hospitals

  •  Cardiff and Vale University Health Board put out a call for help on Boxing Day
  •  Clinicians in Scotland warn we could be facing a ‘perfect storm’ of problems
  • NHS is faced with a ‘staffing crisis’ as ‘one in ten workers’ are off sick or isolating
  • Covid advisor to the BMA said the ‘staffing crisis’ poses threat to derail the NHS
  • The sickness figure also includes staff who are self-isolating following contact 

An NHS trust responsible for Wales’ largest hospital has called for urgent help in caring for its Covid patients, as experts warn a ‘perfect storm’ caused by the faster spreading virus strain could overwhelm hospitals.

Cardiff and Vale University Health Board put out a call for help on Boxing Day asking for ‘assistance from medical students or other staff groups who have previously supported with proning patients’. 

The Board, which runs University Hospital of Wales, later took down their tweet, saying that their position on staffing had improved over the 24-hour period.

They posted an update on their Facebook page which read: ‘Cardiff and Vale UHB critical care unit remains extremely busy due to Covid-19 and winter pressures. 

Cardiff and Vale University Health Board posted on their Facebook page with an update 

‘Staffing has been challenging however the position has improved within the last 24 hours.

‘The unit remains open. Thank you to everyone who has contacted us with offers of support.

‘We have now taken down the call for support so there is no need to call us. Thank you.’  

Meanwhile, the Scottish Academy of Medical Royal Colleges and Faculties has said that the new, faster spreading strain of coronavirus could create a ‘perfect storm’.

In a statement, the organisation said: ‘We know there is hope on the horizon with the rollout of a national immunisation programme, with further vaccines likely to be approved shortly.

‘However, it will take months for this to make a significant difference, and the short-term situation facing our NHS and public health services remains bleak.’

The NHS is faced with a ‘staffing crisis’ as ‘one in ten workers’ are off sick or isolating while soaring coronavirus cases hit hospitals (file image) 

They added: ‘We are gravely concerned that this could lead to the NHS being overwhelmed.’ 

The group described facing a ‘perfect storm’ of challenges if action wasn;t taken now to prevent Covid spreading any further. 

However, Scotland’s national clinical director, Professor Jason Leitch, denied the healthcare system was facing being overwhelmed.

Speaking to the BBC, he said: ‘We can double, treble, quadruple our care for Covid – the number of beds, the number of intensive care beds – we can absolutely do that.’

However, he admitted that increasing measures for Covid care would mean reducing the facilities and staffing on offer in other healthcare areas. 

The Scottish government said that part of their planning included maintaining their ability to double ICU capacity within one week, if needed.   

It comes as Covid advisor to the British Medical Association, Dr David Strain, claimed that the shortages mean there are not enough staff to re-open the Nightingale hospitals. 

The sickness figure also includes staff who are self-isolating following contact with with people who have tested positive outside of work.  

The Scottish Academy of Medical Royal Colleges and Faculties has warned the UK could be facing a ‘perfect storm’ of problems if the spread of the virus isn’t dealt with, despite the widespread rollout of vaccinations. Pictured: Doreen Brown, 85, receives the first of two Pfizer Covid-19 vaccinations at Guy’s Hospital, London, on December 8

‘The NHS has been running on just about enough doctors and nurses for 10 to 15 years. So with up to 10 per cent of healthcare workers off sick, there are no longer enough,’ Dr Strain, a hospital consultant in Exeter, told the Sunday Mirror. 

He explained how the ‘staffing crisis’ poses a threat to derail the NHS in the battle against an increase in Covid-19 cases. 

However an NHS spokesman told MailOnline: ‘This suggestion is wrong, as staff absence rates are not currently as high as they were during the first covid peak, and are currently reported by trusts to be around 6.5 per cent overall, including for both COVID and non-COVID reasons.’

An NHS England spokesman said the latest published figures were from August when the sickness absence rate was 3.9 per cent. 

Covid advisor to the British Medical Association, Dr David Strain, has claimed that the shortages mean there are not enough staff to re-open the pop-up Nightingale hospitals. Pictured: NHS Nightingale Hospital Yorkshire and Humber in Harrogate, North Yorkshire

Meanwhile the rate for April during the first wave of the pandemic was 6.2 per cent. 

It comes as the number of new Covid cases in Britain rose 34,693 yesterday, an increase of 1,968 on the number for the previous 24 hours, while daily deaths fell to 210 from 570. 

The 116-bed NHS Nightingale Hospital Exeter is the only pop-up site treating Covid-19 patients while a site in Manchester is treating non-Covid admissions. 

‘All of the Nightingales in England are ready to support resilience in the NHS,’ an NHS spokesman told the Sunday Mirror. 

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman told the publication that ‘staff vacancies are falling’ and there are fewer staff absences compared to the first wave of the pandemic in April.     

A Department of Health and Social Care spokeswoman told MailOnline: ‘We do not recognise these NHS staff sickness figures – latest NHS data shows there are currently fewer staff absences than the first wave in April.

‘We are backing the NHS to continue to tackle this pandemic and already recommend the use of FFP3 masks and we have a resilient supply. 

‘Staff vacancies are falling with over 13,300 more nurses and 6,000 more doctors working in the NHS in the last year, meaning we are on track to deliver 50,000 more nurses by the end of this Parliament.’ 

Dr Rob Harwood, chair of the BMA consultants committee, said: ‘The NHS has been woefully short of staff for decades now and it is clear that the pandemic pressures have made this problem even more desperate.

‘In addition to the usual increase in staff absences at this time of year, frontline workers are having to self-isolate because either they or their family members have Covid and this is at a time when the NHS is dealing with unparalleled pressures of the second wave, a growing backlog of unmet need and the usual rising winter demand.

‘And while the Nightingales do give extra capacity, the lack of staff makes it incredibly difficult to utilise this.

‘The NHS needs as many staff on the frontline line as it can get and so it is vital that healthcare workers are vaccinated against Covid-19 to ensure they can continue to look after patients.

‘This must be done with careful consideration regarding those most at risk, whether that be owing to their work environment, underlying health conditions or ethnicity.’

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