Natalie Hudson, chief operating officer at Blackpool Teaching Hospitals (BTH) NHS Trust, warned this winter would be particularly challenging
Doctors are expecting to see a surge in respiratory diseases this winter among young children because lockdown meant they were not exposed to the usual germs.
The threat is among factors taken into account in a £2.2m Winter Plan which has been prepared by health chiefs at Blackpool Victoria Hospital.
It is proposed to recruit 110 new full-time equivalent staff to help cope with increased winter pressure on the NHS.
Natalie Hudson, chief operating officer at Blackpool Teaching Hospitals (BTH) NHS Trust, warned this winter would be particularly challenging as medics juggled the potential impact of flu and Covid with trying to restore routine treatments.
She told a meeting of the hospital board: “We need to recognise the potential impact that Covid, flu and Norovirus could have this year.
“We also have a predicted RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus) surge which we have already seen in children and paediatrics saw that peak in August.
“But we also expect a similar surge again throughout winter.”
It has been predicted cases of RSV could increase by up to 50 per cent with children aged under two at most risk.
A report to the board says: “As a result of national lockdowns to manage the Covid 19 pandemic there is an increasing cohort of pregnant women, young infants and children who have not been exposed to respiratory viruses which is now posing a risk to surge infections.
“Public Health England suggests an increase in RSV cases of circa 20-50 per cent, peaking in November, although early presentations have been noted.
“RSV is the most common cause of bronchiolitis in children under two years, although often causing mild infections, it may be severe.
“Typically, RSV circulates during winter, from September, peaking in December.
“Regional teams and the Paediatric Critical Care Network (ODN) have developed regional and supra regional plans to support increased paediatric critical care capacity.”
Ms Hudson added vaccinations for flu and Covid boosters would continue to be rolled out to staff and care homes, with this due to start in September.
All school aged children will be offered the flu vaccine from BTH’s School Aged Vaccination and Immunisation Team, with an expected uptake rate of 70 per cent.
Plans are also being made to convert more wards to medical wards, while a new medical high care unit could be created for patients needing enhanced care but not poorly enough to require intensive care.
But Ms Hudson warned it was key to get staff in place and recruitment was beginning earlier this year to ensure everything was in place.
The Trust holds £5.4m in reserves to fund winter 2021/22. £2.2m, of this is locally funded by BTH and the other £3.2m is commissioner funded.