County NHS hospitals are dealing with 300 patients who could be discharged but have nowhere to go because of crippling staff shortages in care services.
Northamptonshire Hospitals' chief executive Simon Weldon revealed the shocking 'bed-blocking' number at a Local Resilience Forum update on Tuesday (January 18).
The LRF, made up of local authorities, NHS and emergency services called a major incident in the county on January 7 in response to rising Covid-19 cases.
Numbers of new positive tests have fallen from around 13,000 a week in Northamptonshire to 8,500 while enforced staff absences among county NHS, police and fire workers are also down.
But the NHS remains under huge pressure with up to 98 percent of 1,100 beds at Northampton General and Kettering General hospitals occupied and more than 150 patients being treated for Covid.
Mr Weldon revealed: "Once that figure gets above 95 percent we know things are going to get tricky.
"We are working to get patients home as soon as possible but our staff absences are being echoed across our partners.
"We currently have 300 patients in our hospitals who could be cared for in other settings. That challenge will occupy us for coming days.
"This pandemic has revealed something that was there before it and we pretty much have a crisis in home care in terms of how we attract people.
"The number of people off work has dropped but we cannot be sure that we have passed the peak. We are still in the teeth of this and we need to be quite cautious."
West Northamptonshire Council chief executive Anna Earnshaw revealed the county lost around eight percent of its care staff in November when the government imposed new rules requiring them to be fully vaccinated.
She added: "It remains exceptionally difficult and I think we will see another six months of real challenge in terms of whether we have enough care to provide to people
"We will get through this because we will do whatever it takes.
"But once we are though this, our attention will quickly turn to how we sustain best outcomes for people when its very, very hard with with limited capacity in our workforce."
NHS staff feared hospital numbers could be about to double following a surge in Covid cases after Christmas.
The current total of 154 patients in hospitals represents only a small rise, however, and Mr Weldon admitted: "We are fortunate that numbers have not risen in the way we initially expected.
"But that's still more than ten percent of our total bed stock given over to patients who have one condition and that is no healthy place for a system to be."
"That has two knock-on effects. We are struggling to continue to provide lower-priority elective care because our beds are fully occupied, and secondly it places staff under greater strain.
"I'm grateful for the fact that we're not where we thought we would be but there are still considerable problems we are dealing with on a day-to-day basis."