Northampton General Hospital suspends visiting from today as county Covid-19 cases hit record high and staff absence bites

Early-morning tweet confirms "difficult decision" although there will be limited exceptions

By Kevin Nicholls
Friday, 31st December 2021, 10:43 am

Northampton General Hospital has shut its doors to most visitors with immediate affect.

No official statement has been released but a post on the 800-bed hospital's official Twitter account at 7.25am on Friday (December 31) said: "The health, wellbeing and safety of all our people, including patients and colleagues continues to be our top priority.

"We have therefore taken the difficult decision to suspend visiting at the hospital from today.

"We will have virtual visiting facilities in place.

"We apologise for having to take this step as we are fully aware of the impact suspending visiting has on our patients and those close to them. Thank you for your patience and understanding."

There will be limited exceptions to the new rule including birthing partners, parents of young patients and those visiting end of life, critical care, patients with dementia or learning difficulties.

The news comes after the daily number of new coronavirus cases in Northamptonshire topped 2,000 for the first time on Thursday.

Most visiting has been suspended from today at NGH

Government data released on Thursday night (December 30) showed 2,101 previously unreported positive tests.

The previous record daily high before the current Omicron-fuelled surge was 1,044 back in January.

Figures also show 9,433 positive tests have been reported in Northamptonshire during the last seven days.

Self-isolation rules for those testing positive have led to acute staff shortages in the NHS across England with around 38 percent of workers absent in the week up to December 23.

Earlier this week, NHS Providers chief executive Chris Hopson told BBC Breakfast: "We're now seeing a significant increase in the level of staff absences.

'Quite a few of our chief executives are saying that they think that that's probably going to be a bigger problem and a bigger challenge than the number of people coming in who need treatment because of Covid.

"So what we're seeing is in some hospitals, we're now having to redeploy staff to fill the gaps that are being left in critical and essential services by staff who are off with Covid-related absences."

NGH bosses had previously insisted visitors needed to show proof of a negative lateral flow test.

Latest NHS England data on how many Covid-19 patients are being treated in NGH and Kettering General Hospital is due to be released later today.

But the chairman of the council at the British Medical Association is warning of "significant" rises in Covid patients in hospitals.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul today told Sky News: "As of yesterday, the number of people admitted and also the number of patients in hospital is at a level as high as during the lockdown earlier this year in spring, in February-March.

"Now that is a significant number and it is increasing. So, while the proportion of people who end up in hospital as a result of Omicron is smaller, we are definitely seeing significant increases."