NHS trust urgent care and infection control chiefs: Staffing levels may fall to low levels

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Monday, July 26th, 2021 11:02pm

By Alex Moore - Local Democracy Reporter

The “PINGDEMIC” could “compromise” patient safety by forcing health staff into isolation and leading to shortages, bosses at a regional NHS trust have warned.

A report for the Midlands Partnership Foundation Trust board notes recent figures put Telford and Wrekin’s Covid-19 infection rate at 443.1 per 100,000 people, with Shropshire on 328.7 – both below the UK average, but rising.

Judith Rice, the organisation’s Strategic Lead of Urgent Care, and Infection Prevention and Control Director Ian Turner write that the “current high prevalence” of the virus means “they may be certain circumstances where staffing levels fall so low the safety of individuals needing care is compromised”.

They add that NHS England guidance allows double-vaccinated front-line staff to leave self-isolation to go back to work “in exceptional circumstances where there is a risk to health and safety” without them.

MPFT, which runs mental health facilities across the region including the Redwoods Centre in Shrewsbury, currently has three coronavirus cases among its inpatients, Ms Rice and Mr Turner write. Sixty-seven deaths have taken place across the trust, including one at the Shrewsbury site, throughout the pandemic. The other 66 took place at Haywood Hospital in Stoke-on-Trent.

Ms Rice and Mr Turner write: “The pandemic is not over.

“Cases are increasing rapidly and scientists have agreed a third wave is underway.

“While many of the legal restrictions that the government has imposed through the pandemic have been lifted, cautious guidance will remain.

“At the time of writing, in the UK there have been 5.47 million Covid-19 positive cases and 128,700 deaths. The R rate in the Midlands is 1.3-1.5.

“There has been an increase of cases across the whole of the MPFT footprint.”

Stoke-on-Trent had the highest rate in MPFT’s area, at 592.9 cases per 100,000 people. Government data says the UK average was 490.5 as of Sunday, July 25.

“The current high prevalence of Covid-19 has resulted in large numbers of close contacts being required to self-isolate which is placing pressure on some health and social care services due to staff shortages,” Ms Rice and Mr Turner write.

“As case numbers increase, there may be certain circumstances where staffing levels fall so low the safety of individuals needing care is compromised.

“Following guidance issued by NHS England and NHS Improvement, from July 19, and only in exceptional circumstances where there is a risk to health or safety resulting from staff absence through the provision of reduced level of care, health and social care staff who have been identified as a contact of a case of Covid-19 and are fully vaccinated, with more than 14 days since the second dose, may be able to continue in their role.”

The Midlands Partnership Foundation NHS Trust will discuss Ms Rice’s and Mr Turner’s report on Thursday, July 29.

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