Essex declares 'major incident' as hospitals risk being overwhelmed by Covid-19

30 December 2020, 10:47 | Updated: 30 December 2020, 14:45

Local authorities in Essex have declared a "major incident".
Local authorities in Essex have declared a "major incident". Picture: Getty

By Joe Cook

Local authorities in Essex have declared a "major incident" as the number of Covid-19 patients threatens to overwhelm hospitals.

There are now more patients with Covid-19 in Essex’s hospitals than there were in the first wave and these numbers are expected to continue to rise.

The Essex Resilience Forum - which is made up of members of the NHS, emergency services and local authorities - say NHS services are facing “significant growing demand” due to the number of Covid cases.

Nurses on the frontline in Essex have told LBC they have "grave concerns" about the situation in hospitals and are having to "battle over incorrect personal protective equipment".

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Anthony McKeever, executive lead for Mid and South Essex Health and Care Partnership, said they are working to identify “additional locations and capacity to assist with the discharging of patients to reduce pressure on hospitals”.

"We are taking every action possible within the NHS and across the wider health and social care partnerships in Essex to limit the impact on the NHS and the wider health system,” he added.

Areas of particular concern included critical care and bed capacity, staff sickness and the ability to discharge patients quickly into safe environments.

Chelmsford MP, Vicky Ford, told LBC the county needs “get the levels of Covid down in order to protect our NHS in Essex”.

“The news that a major incident has been declared due to the pressure on the NHS is extremely concerning and it is because our hospitals, especially Broomfield Basidon and Southend, are only days away from not being able to take any more patients.

“Declaring the major incident will mean that the local emergency services will be able to ask for more resources and support from other parts of the country, but it is a real problem for the emergency services in Essex.”

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Robert Halfon, MP for Harlow, also told LBC: “The situation in Harlow and across Essex is very serious, our hospitals are under significant strain.

“Essex will work with the government to try and get the resources that we need, but we must do everything possible to try and get the spread of the disease across Harlow and Essex down.

“We can only do that if we follow the rules to the letter.”

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Leah Sparks, an NHS nurse from Essex also asked people to "please follow the advice we are being given".

Speaking to LBC, she added: "With New Year's Eve tomorrow, I urge you to stay home. The NHS is in crisis, it cannot cope with the rising number of cases of Covid while also trying to care for patients with general health conditions and illnesses."

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Similarly, NHS nurse Kelly told LBC: "We are hearing about staff being recalled from annual leave and to work overtime on the back of already feeling burnt out and exhausted due to short staffing and low morale.

"We are still having the battle over incorrect PPE for managing patients with Covid which puts us at risk and staff are off due to illness, isolating or shielding.

"The biggest insult to all of this is that a lot of frontline staff are still waiting for the vaccine while being expected to work in these conditions, risking being exposed to a more virulent strain," she continued.

"All the while wearing substandard medical devices such as these fluid resistant masks and pinnies. We need FFP3s and gowns."

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It comes after the UK recorded a further 53,135 new cases of coronavirus on Tuesday, the largest daily rise since the pandemic began.

But there is hope, as the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine was approved for use in the UK, and will be rolled out next week.

Hospitals across the UK are facing significant pressures, with thousands more people in hospital with Covid-19 than at the peak of the first wave.

Coronavirus patients were being treated in ambulances outside a hospital in north east London on Tuesday evening, with dozens of ambulances queuing up outside Queen’s Hospital in Romford.

A number of emergency vehicles were also seen queuing near the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel, east London, as the Barts Health NHS Trust announced it had moved into a "very high pressure" phase.

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On Wednesday, senior sources in intensive care told the Health Service Journal that critical care patients in London could be transferred to Yorkshire due to overcapacity.

The publication added that it had seen leaked data that revealed Intensive Care Units (ICUs) in some parts of the city, the South East of England and the East are running at over 100 per cent capacity.

It is not only beds that are a concern, with a lack of staff meaning the Nightingale facilities are not being used in most areas.

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Danny Mortimer from the NHS Confederation told LBC the availability of staff is a major concern for the NHS and is “limiting capacity”.

“They are not immune to the virus either, we are seeing rates of sickness and absence increase, either as people contract the virus sadly or members of their family do and they have to isolate.”