Coronavirus: Northern NHS Nightingales told to mobilise ahead of second wave

12 October 2020, 11:26 | Updated: 12 October 2020, 16:02

Professor Jonathan Van-Tam said it was of "concern" that coronavirus was "heating up" in more of England
Professor Jonathan Van-Tam said it was of "concern" that coronavirus was "heating up" in more of England. Picture: PA

By Matt Drake

NHS Nightingales in Harrogate, Manchester and Sunderland have been told to mobilise as Covid-19 cases in the areas sky rocket, the NHS Chief has said.

Professor Stephen Powis, the medical director of NHS England, said there were now more patients in hospital with coronavirus than there were when the Government ordered the lockdown in March.

"As the infection rate has begun to grow across the country, hospital infections have started to rise," he told a No 10 news briefing.

"It is clear that hospital admissions are rising fastest in those areas of the country where infection rates are highest, particularly the North West.

"In the over-65s - particularly the over-85s - we are seeing steep rises in the numbers of people being admitted to hospital so the claim that the elderly can somehow be fenced off from risk is wishful thinking."

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Prof Stephen Powis has said NHS Nightingales in the north have been told to mobilise
Prof Stephen Powis has said NHS Nightingales in the north have been told to mobilise. Picture: PA

Professor Jonathan Van-Tam said it was of "concern" that coronavirus was "heating up" in more of England than a week ago.

The deputy chief medical officer made the comments as he explained a map showing the rate of change per 100,000 population by local authority between September 23-29 and September 30 to Oct 6.

He said: "It has changed in a matter of just a few days and that is clearly of concern to me."

Prof Van-Tam also warned that coronavirus was spreading from younger age groups into those aged of 60.

"There is the spread from those younger age groups into the 60 plus age group in the North West and the North East, and there are rates of change in the same places but also extending a little further south.

"And this is again of significant concern... because of course the elderly suffer a much worse course with Covid-19, they are admitted to hospital for longer periods, and they are more difficult to save."

Professor Jonathan Van-Tam said other regions were now following the North West of England pattern where the virus moved through the age bands, having started spiking among young people at first.

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Explaining an age-specific chart at a press briefing, he said: "You will see that the infection rate was initially highest in the 16-29-year-olds.

"And that, as you move to the right just gets hotter and hotter but as it does so you can see the incremental creep of the infection into the next age band up, 30-44, followed two or three weeks later by a creep-up again into the 45-59s, and you can now see that the 60+ are now heating up on that chart.

"The North West experienced all of this first and my understanding is that pattern is likely to be followed - you can see it in the North East and you can see it in Yorkshire and the Humber just beginning but at an earlier stage."

The temporary Nightingale hospitals in Manchester, Sunderland and Harrogate could be brought back into use to help with the spike in Covid-19 cases.

NHS England's Professor Stephen Powis told a Downing Street briefing there would also be increased testing of health staff in hotspot areas.

Read more: New daily Covid cases dip slightly as 65 more UK deaths recorded

The temporary Nightingale hospitals in Manchester, Sunderland and Harrogate could be brought back
The temporary Nightingale hospitals in Manchester, Sunderland and Harrogate could be brought back. Picture: PA

He said: "To protect our staff and our patients we will be introducing - with tests provided by the Test and Trace service - regular testing for staff in these high-risk areas, even when they don't have symptoms.

"This will help us keep staff and patients in those hospitals as safe as possible.

"Secondly, we have asked the Nightingale hospitals in Manchester, Sunderland and Harrogate to prepare for this next phase.

"They are being asked to mobilise over the next few weeks to be ready to accept patients if necessary."

It will be for local clinicians to decide whether they are used for Covid patients or to provide extra capacity to maintain services for people without coronavirus.

Read more: England to be divided into three-tier local Covid alert areas

Read more: UK at Covid-19 'tipping point' similar to first wave, top scientist warns

Sir Keir Starmer said areas with high coronavirus rates had been treated with "contempt" by Boris Johnson's Government.

The Labour leader told LBC Radio: "The Government has been treating local communities, particularly in the Midlands, North West and North East - and their leaders - with contempt, that Whitehall knows best and we will simply tell you what's coming your way.

"It's just not good enough, you have to take people with you on this, listen to what local leaders are saying."

Sir Keir said he wanted Mr Johnson to set out how he will get the NHS Test and Trace system to operate properly and explain how areas which are subjected to local restrictions are able to get out of those measures.

"The tier system is the first part of what we need to hear from the Prime Minister, but there's a lot more than that we need to hear this afternoon," he said.

Mr Johnson is expected to address MPs later today this afternoon to update them on new coronavirus measures.

He is also expected to address the Commons at 3.30pm.

Then at 6pm, he will give a live Downing Street press conference with Chancellor Rishi Sunak and the chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty which will be televised.

Different parts of the country will be split up into "medium", "high" or "very high" local coronavirus alert areas under the new system.

The classification of areas will determine what type of "appropriate interventions" are to be made in them to combat the coronavirus outbreak.

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