Visiting suspended at Northampton and Kettering hospitals following "significant increase" in Covid and flu cases

“We are seeing numbers rise in both hospitals with some patients being very unwell”
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NHS bosses have suspended visiting on adult inpatient wards at hospitals in Northampton and Kettering due to a “significant increase” in cases of Covid, flu and other respiratory illnesses.

Only compassionate visiting is allowed at Northampton General Hospital and Kettering General Hospital from Thursday (December 29), although staff are offering increased virtual visiting to support patients to keep in touch with loved ones. Maternity and paediatrics will not be affected by the new measures, which also includes patients and visitors wearing masks in the hospital, while outpatients are being asked to attend appointments as planned unless told not to but take strict hygiene precautions.

An internal email to staff at KGH seen by this newspaper revealed a critical incident has been delcared while a joint statement from the hospitals’ chief operating officers issued on Wednesday (December 28) warned the current variants of Covid, flu, respiratory illness and norovirus are “very infectious” adding “we are seeing numbers rise in both hospitals with some patients being very unwell”. They also confirmed that many of those suffering the most severe symptoms are unvaccinated.

Bosses at NGH and KGH have brought back visiting restrictions after reporting a sharp increase in Covid and flu cases in the hospitalsBosses at NGH and KGH have brought back visiting restrictions after reporting a sharp increase in Covid and flu cases in the hospitals
Bosses at NGH and KGH have brought back visiting restrictions after reporting a sharp increase in Covid and flu cases in the hospitals

In September, numbers of Covid patients occupying beds in the two hospitals dropped as low as 16. But the hospitals say that figure had risen to 120 beds by Wednesday (December 28) — around 10 percent of the total available — with another 70 beds taken up by flu patients.

The statement by chief operating officers Palmer Winstanley and Fay Gordon added: “Suspending visiting on adult inpatient wards and asking all patients and visitors to wear masks will help us to prevent the spread of infection and keep our vulnerable patients safe from these winter illnesses.

“We are also urging people to have their Covid and flu vaccinations. We are seeing patients who are being hospitalised with both flu and Covid and a number of these patients are seriously unwell and unvaccinated.

“Throughout the pandemic we have been very impressed by the way our community has supported our hospitals and followed infection control arrangements. We would once again like to ask for their support with these restrictions. It is not a decision we take lightly, and we hope people understand why we are reintroducing these measures for the safety of our patients.”

The number of Covid patients in hospital beds has risen by more than 20 percent since the last official NHS England update showed 92 patients — 54 in NGH and 38 at Kettering — on December 21. Hospitals’ resources are also being stretched by staff sickness as infections rise.

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A strike by East Midlands Ambulance Service staff planned for Wednesday (December 28) was put back to January 11 while Royal College of Nursing members are set to take industrial at selected locations nationwide on January 18 and 19.

Professor Sir Stephen Powis, NHS National Medical Director, said: “It is clear that the NHS is facing enormous pressure with the number of flu cases in hospital and in intensive care rising week-on-week, on top of significant increases in staff sickness rates and near-record demand for services like 111.”