NHS facing 'toughest ever winter' says Derriford Hospital boss as fears grow over Omicron

  • Chief Executive of University Hospitals Plymouth Ann James speaks to ITV News

The boss of the South West's largest hospital says this winter could be the toughest it has ever faced as the Omicron variant expected to cause further delays to planned operations.

Chief executive at Derriford Hospital in Plymouth Ann James urged everyone to book their booster jab to avoid overwhelming the NHS.

"The winter looks like it's going to be the toughest winter we've ever had," she told ITV News West Country.

"Derriford is certainly very busy, and has been for many months. There are still quite a high number of Covid patients, we've got over 50 on average, some of those are in intensive care, and we're also trying to get as many planned operations done as possible.

"This is really putting pressure on our staff right across the board, but everybody is doing their very best."

Derriford Hospital is the major trauma centre for the region Credit: ITV News

Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed today (December 13) that the UK has recorded its first Omicron death.

The UK Health Security agency says 10 people are in hospital with with the variant - at least one of those is just 18 years old.

People are being urged to get their Covid booster jab booked in - but high levels of demand have seen both queues to book online and physical queues at walk-in vaccination centres.

The NHS in England is now advising people trying to book a booster jab to try later or tomorrow.

Ann James added: "I think the whole nation is worried about the challenges this variant will bring. I think it will come down to the staff, who have been absolutely incredible, working with us to try to prioritise what we do and when we do that. There are going to be some really difficult choices.

"I'm really concerned about the impact it might have on planned operations.

"We know patients have been waiting a really long time. We have benefitted from some additional mobile theatres, that will certainly free some space up, but we have to acknowledge it's going to be very tough."