Northamptonshire health and emergency services have declared a 'major incident' in response to the impact of surging Covid-19 cases in the county.
The decision announced on Friday (January 7) was taken by a group known as the Northamptonshire Resilience Forum, which includes the NHS, councils, police and fire services.
It will allow for 'greater co-ordination' between the different bodies to cope with pressures caused by recent rises in Omicron variant infections which have led to extra demand on services and staffing levels.
NHS England also revealed on Friday that the number of Covid-19 patients in Northampton General Hospital nearly doubled between Christmas and New Year, with at least 30 admitted on New Year's Eve.
Figures rose to 91 by January 4 compared to 48 a week earlier while another 13 Covid patients have sadly died in NGH since Christmas Day.
Nearly 13,000 new positive tests have been reported across Northamptonshire during the last seven days up to Thursday (January 6), leading to staff shortages in key sectors as people quarantine.
Chair of the Local Resilience Forum, Chief Fire Officer Darren Dovey, said that taking the 'necessary step' calling a 'major incident' will bolster ability to co-ordinate activity to help continuity of essential services and help to manage and plan for sustained pressure caused by Covid-19 on staffing levels.
He said: “There is already exceptional working together between partners to help the county face up to this challenge.
"Declaring this incident is a necessary step to make sure we are able to share resources where necessary which is increasingly important as more staff need to self-isolate.”
Toby Sanders, NHS Northamptonshire Clinical Commissioning Group chief executive, added: “We would like to reassure our community that urgent services and time-critical procedures will continue, and we will contact anyone whose treatment is delayed – rebooking appointments once affected services can safely be reinstated.
“Our community can help us help them by ensuring they are seeking help from the most appropriate health services, and only visiting A&E for serious accidents and emergencies.
"If you are unwell, visit NHS 111 online for 24/7 advice about the most appropriate care for your needs.
“Anyone who is not yet fully vaccinated is urged to book in their jab as soon as possible to protect themselves and their families and reduce pressure on health services.”
Today's move comes just a day after Boris Johnson visited Northampton, thanking the town’s hospital staff for their hard work.
The Prime Minister has so far decided against imposing stricter restrictions to reduce the number of Covid cases beyond extending rules of wearing masks and asking people to work from home where they can.
He told a Downing Street briefing on Tuesday: “The NHS is under huge pressure and there will be a difficult period for our wonderful NHS for the next few weeks because of Omicron."
But Mr Johnson added that the country had a chance to 'ride out this Omicron wave without shutting down our country once again.'
He said: "I just think we have to get through it as best as we possibly can.”
Critical incidents have been called at up to 24 out of 137 NHS hospitals trusts across England while Staffordshire's local resilience forum called a major incident on Thursday (January 6).