More than a thousand NHS staff in Devon are currently off work due to “covid-related problems,” a health boss has revealed.
Dr Paul Johnson, clinical chair of the NHS Devon Clinical Commissioning Group, warned a recent increase in covid cases across the county is having an impact on the health service.
However, addressing a monthly Team Devon meeting of local leaders, he said it was not leading to an increase in the number of people seriously ill with the virus.
“We’re seeing a significant increase in the number of people who are testing positive for covid and the number of staff who are testing positive and having to absent themselves,” Dr Johnson said.
“So, what that means is that we have fewer staff available. And at the moment, there are over a thousand staff in the NHS in Devon who are off because of covid-related problems.
He added: “On top of that, we are having to have people in cohorted wards [a ward where people with the same infection are put] because they test positive [for] covid, and that means often they’ve come into hospital with something separate and so they are not on the specialist ward that they should be on.
“Rather, they’re on that general ward and it does mean that giving them specialist nursing and medical input becomes more difficult. It also means the number of beds that we have available is reduced because of infection contacts.”
“And lastly, it means that many people are delayed in their ability to be discharged, particularly if they need a care package or into a care home because they’re testing positive.”
The meeting was told that despite the number of people in hospital with covid rising to more than 230, very few of them need intensive care.
“At the height of the pandemic, it was about 10 per cent needing intensive care, whereas at the moment we only have four in our intensive care units,” Dr Johnson said.
“So, the good news is that this particular variant doesn’t seem to be having the impact [in making people seriously ill] and it’s also testament to the effectiveness of the booster vaccine and the number of people within Devon who have actually got that booster.”
Despite the end of legal covid restrictions, the public is still being asked to wear masks, keep hands clean and to maintain distancing in healthcare settings.
People are also expected not to attend hospital, for visiting or for outpatients’ appointments, if they have symptoms of an infection – whether covid or not. Visiting may also be in a timed slot to control numbers.
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