Critical incidents have been declared by Bristol’s two hospital trusts amid staff shortages and rising pressures due to Covid-19.
University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Trust (UHBWT), which runs Bristol Royal Infirmary, and North Bristol NHS Trust (NBT), which runs Southmead Hospital, both declared the internal critical incidents over the New Year bank holiday weekend.
Latest figures show 38% of staff at UHBWT were off because they had Covid-19 or were self-isolating on Boxing Day, while at NBT 32% were absent.
Meanwhile, in the week up to the same day, December 26, UHBWT admitted 76 Covid patients, and NBT 69.
The region’s health system was already in its highest state of alert, known as Opel 4, reflecting the level of pressure being felt across NHS hospitals, GP practices, community and mental health services and social care.
Statement on critical incidents
Today, January 5, a spokesperson for the Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire health and care system – the Healthier Together Partnership – said: “Our whole health and care system is extremely busy and remains in its highest state of alert.
“Both acute trusts in our area declared internal critical incidents across the New Year bank holiday weekend. This meant they were able to open up extra beds and ward space, as well as request additional staff.
“Like other areas of the country, many staff across health and care are either unwell with Covid-19 or isolating. This means our sickness rates are higher than normal.
“The most important thing the public can do to protect themselves and support local services is to get their first, second or booster Covid-19 vaccines doses.”
Walk-in centres for booster jabs are open across the region, but there was a concern people were not coming forward before Christmas over fears they may catch the virus.
However, up to December 18, 185,069 people in the city had received a booster or third dose.
That equated to at least 41% of people aged 12 and over in the city, based on the number of people on the National Immunisation Management Service database.
No change to Plan B measures
Despite the surge in pressure on the NHS in Bristol, and across the country, the Prime Minister said there was no plan yet to change the current Plan B measures in England.
The measures have seen work from home guidance reintroduced and mask wearing extended.
PM Boris Johnson said: ““I would say to everybody looking at the pressures on the NHS in the next couple of weeks, and maybe longer, looking at the numbers of people who are going to be going into hospital, it will be absolute folly to say that this thing is all over now bar the shouting.
“We’ve got to remain cautious. We got to stick with Plan B. We’ve got to get boosted.”
What the NHS is doing
NHS national medical director, Professor Stephen Powis, said hospitals were making ‘every possible preparation for the uncertain challenges of omicron’
This includes the setting up of a Nightingale surge hub at Southmead and recruiting thousands of nurses and reservists.
He said: “The NHS is on a war footing, and while staff remain braced for the worst, with covid absence for NHS staff almost doubling in the past fortnight, keeping as many colleagues as possible at work on the frontline and minimising absence, will be essential in the next few weeks.
“As staff throw everything at preparing for this next wave, the public can play their part in protecting themselves by getting the first, second and booster jabs, as tens of millions of others already have.”
Yesterday, the number of coronavirus cases in Bristol increased over 24 hours by 1,204 - meaning a total of 100,427 people had been confirmed as testing positive for Covid-19.