Omicron: West Suffolk Hospital declares internal critical incident as staff off sick and isolating

West Suffolk Hospital.

West Suffolk Hospital has declared an internal critical incident as Covid cases continue to rise.

Bosses say it is due to the number of staff who are sick and absent from work.

A total of 6.5% of the trust's staff are currently off sick, with 3.2% absent due to Covid.

The latest figures show there were 343 absences at West Suffolk Hospital NHS Foundation Trust on Boxing Day, with 146 linked to the virus.

Visiting is still suspended at the hospital due to Covid cases in the area, with only limited exceptions in place.

Craig Black, interim chief executive at West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, said the hospital had opened more beds and focused on discharging patients to cope with demand.

He said: "To alleviate the pressures across our health and care system in Suffolk, we have taken a number of actions in addition to our normal working practices, including opening additional beds and extra focus on discharging patients who are ready to go home.

"Since the start of the pandemic, our staff have worked tirelessly to care and support every single patient who needs our care and I want to commend them on their dedication and hard work in very busy circumstances.

"The public can help us to be there for those patients who need us the most by getting their Covid and flu jabs, by using the free, 24/7 NHS 111 online or phone service for urgent health issues and only coming to A&E if absolutely necessary."

West Suffolk brings the number the number of hospital trusts throughout the country that have recently declared critical incidents to at least 25 by Thursday morning.

Covid cases remain at an all-time high nationwide as the Omicron variant continues to spread rapidly, with daily infection numbers topping 200,000 earlier this week. 

Yesterday, ITV Anglia reported that Norfolk and Waveney CCG declared a critical incident, meaning it is unable to deliver services fully and that patients are at an increased risk of harm.

But the Prime Minister said that despite the warnings from the NHS, the Plan B restrictions were "helping to take the edge off the Omicron wave".

Commenting on the declaration of an internal critical incident at West Suffolk Hospital, Sasha Savage from the UNISON union said: “It’s little surprise staffing levels have dived to the point of crisis. Staff have been wrung dry by the pandemic and have nothing left as Omicron surges.“Many are covering the shifts of poorly colleagues and feeling guilty they can’t provide quality care to patients. Overwhelmed and exhausted staff are suffering panic attacks and feeling anxious they’ll catch Covid again. It’s all taking a toll.“West Suffolk Hospital already had scores of vacancies before the Covid struck — the pandemic and poor government planning have upped the strain and now many staff have had enough.“The solution lies outside Suffolk: the Prime Minister must invest to protect the NHS. An inflation-busting wage rise paid early in the new year would be a good start, helping convince staff they are valued enough to carry on.”