‘Critical incident’ declared at Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust amid Covid staff crisis

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An internal critical incident was declared at Blackpool Teaching Hospitals as health leaders warned the NHS was “in a state of crisis”.

Trish Armstrong-Child, chief executive of Blackpool Teaching Hospitals, confirmed an “internal critical incident” was declared due to “operational challenges across the organisation”.

These included Blackpool Victoria Hospital running at “full capacity”, long waits in A&E and “high staff sickness absence levels of above 10 per cent.”

Outbreaks of Covid in the community also resulted in more people being admitted to the hospital each day than those discharged.

The trust is responsible for Blackpool Victoria Hospital and two smaller community hospitals – Clifton Hospital and Fleetwood Hospital.

Natalie Hudson, Chief Operating Officer at Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (BTH), said: “Like hospitals across the country, we are currently seeing very high demand for our services and long waits to be seen in our emergency departments and across our urgent care pathways, continued challenges to discharge patients who no longer medically need to be in hospital but have nowhere to go or no care package in place, and very high levels of bed occupancy, all of which is exacerbated by rapidly rising rates of Covid-19 in our communities and rising rates of admission to hospital which is creating further pressures around discharge, as well as a significant impact on staff absence rates across the organisation.

“Because of the pressures the trust is under, we have made the decision to declare an internal critical incident which means staff across the trust will be working together today to take actions immediately to attempt to alleviate the pressure we are under including stepping down some non-urgent activity in order to deliver all of the things we can and need to do to provide the very best care possible.

“We will also be working across the Fylde Coast with our partners too, to ensure care packages and support are provided as quickly as possible to aid discharge, and encourage the public to help us respond to this period of high demand by doing everything they to protect their families and friends by ensuring they are fully vaccinated and following guidance around social distancing, wearing a mask, and washing their hands, and crucially seeking help from the most appropriate health services, only attending A&E for serious accidents and emergencies, and using NHS 111 first to seek advice about the most appropriate care for your needs.”

An internal critical incident was declared at Blackpool Teaching Hospitals

An internal critical incident was declared at Blackpool Teaching Hospitals

The news came after Dr Sakthi Karunanithi, director of public health in Lancashire, said health officials were “bracing for a tsunami of Omicron cases” in the county.

“Lancashire is beginning to experience what London did at the beginning of last month,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. “We are only at the foothills of this particular wave in Lancashire.”

Dr Karunanithi added that the spike in Omicron infections across the region was “leading to more staff absences,” warning that Covid restrictions in the area may be too lenient because “staff absences don’t always get presented in dashboards”.

Multiple hospitals across the country have declared critical incidents amid warnings the NHS was “in a state of crisis”.

Prime minister Boris Johnson insisted on Monday that no further Covid restrictions were needed in England, though he admitted pressure on the NHS was “going to be considerable”.

Defending his light-touch approach – in stark contrast to crackdowns in the rest of the UK – Mr Johnson said: “We have got plan B in place, people should never forget that.”

He added: “The way forward for the country as a whole is to continue with the path that we’re on.

“We’ll keep everything under review – of course we keep all measures under review – but the mixture of things that we’re doing at the moment is, I think, the right one.”