A major incident has been declared in Northamptonshire's health services because of Covid pressures and staff shortages - just a day after a visit from Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
Mr Johnson saw health services in the county at first-hand and admitted the NHS was under "huge pressure".
Northamptonshire Local Resilience Forum – made up of multiple agencies such as NHS organisations, local authorities, Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service and Northamptonshire Police – made the announcement on Friday in response to rising demand and Covid-related staff absences.
Calling a major incident bolsters health and social care providers to join forces and co-ordinate activity to help ensure essential services continue.
Hospital bosses said taking the measures would help them get "ahead of the curve" and pointed to a combination of winter pressures, Omicron coronavirus cases and staff shortages as the reason for their actions.
Kettering General Hospital currently sees about 300 patients, and Northampton General Hospital about 400 daily because of winter pressures, with around 25% of that total admitted each day. But together the hospitals are also dealing with 150 of their 1,000 beds being taken by Omicron patients - 95 in Northampton and 55 in Kettering.
Staff absences are running at about 9% - or 900 staff out of a 10,000-strong workforce - which is around one-third higher than the same period before the pandemic.
In a press conference Northamptonshire GP Joanne Watt urged people to get a booster jab.
She said: "We think at least 50% of colds at the moment are actually Omicron. I do hear repeatedly from my patients 'This one's just a cold, I would know if it was Covid.' And my answer to that is: no you wouldn't."
Chief fire officer Darren Dovey, who chairs the resilience forum, said the major incident was a way of services working together to prepare for what they expect will be a surge of cases and shortages in the next two weeks.
“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, chief executive of NHS Northamptonshire Clinical Commissioning Group said: “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."
He asked people to seek help from the most appropriate health service, and only visiting accident and emergency for the most serious emergencies.
He added: “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.”
It comes just days after both the West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds and the Norfolk and Waveney Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) declared a "critical incident".
Boris Johnson admitted on Thursday while on a visit to a Northamptonshire vaccine centre that the Omicron variant of Covid is putting the NHS under "huge pressure" after critical incidents were declared at 17.5% of England's hospital trusts.