Northamptonshire reaches 100,000 Covid-19 cases amid warning delays to plan B risks longer NHS hospital waiting lists
NHS Confederation chief fears winter crisis will derail efforts to tackle backlog of 45,000 patients
Thousands more patients could be forced to join waiting lists at the county's two main hospitals unless the government uses its 'plan B' to tackle Covid-19, the NHS Confederation chief has warned.
Northamptonshire is poised to pass 100,000 positive coronavirus tests since the pandemic began amid growing numbers of hospital patients and deaths nationally.
NHS England reported 763 new cases in the county on Thursday (October 21) taking the total to 99,799 since March 2020. More than 14,000 of those have been recorded since the beginning of October.
Prime Minster Boris Johnson says he is keeping a “very close eye” on the situation nationally.
But Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation which represents the healthcare system in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, insists immediate action is needed to stop the health service “stumbling into a crisis” which will jeopardise efforts to clear the backlog.
Health secretary Sajid Javid on Wednesday (October 20) said the number of Covid cases nationally is to rise to 100,000 a day — which could mean around 10,000 a week in Northamptonshire.
But he also insisted the government would not be implementing its ‘Plan B’ at this stage, which would mean a return of social distancing, compulsory face masks in certain settings and working from home.
Mr Taylor told The Guardian: “We are right on the edge – and it is the middle of October.
“The government ought to not just announce that we’re moving to plan B, but it should be plan B plus.
"This is not a question of if we don’t do it something might happen. If we don’t do it, it would take a miracle for us not to find ourselves in the midst of a really profound crisis over the next three months.”
NHS England figures showed 23,764 patients waiting for non-urgent, consultant-led care at Northampton General Hospital at the end of August – three percent more than one month before and 12 percent up on August 2020.
Another 21,865 were on Kettering General Hospital waiting list – a whopping increase of 41 percent on the 15,545 last August.
Hundreds of patients had routine surgeries postponed last winter as the county's two main hospitals battled with Covid-19 patients occupying up to a third of available beds.
Northampton General Hospital and Kettering General Hospital declined to comment on any possible introduction of plan B, saying it would be a "political decision."
But doctors have joined the call for ministers to take urgent action. British Medical Association council chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said: "The government said it would enact plan B to prevent the NHS from being overwhelmed.
"As doctors working on the frontline, we can categorically say that time is now."
Latest data published on Friday (October 22) showed 45 Covid-related deaths in Northamptonshire's hospitals since October 1 with seven more recorded at NGH in the space of four days from October 16 to October 19.
The number of Covid patients admitted stood at with 88 on Tuesday. Of those, 67 were in NGH — the highest number seen since January.
Nine Covid patients are in the hospitals' critical care units — just under 40 percent of all those in ITU beds.