It's impossible to return to pre-Covid ways of working, say health chiefs

Health chiefs have warned that it will be impossible to go back to pre-Covid ways of working, and staff at all levels of the NHS are exhausted after more than 18 months coping with the effects of the ongoing pandemic.

By Tony Earnshaw, Local Democracy Reporting Service
Monday, 23rd August 2021, 10:30 am
Dewsbury and District Hospital
Dewsbury and District Hospital

They say inadequate testing and controls during the early days of the pandemic meant some patients picked up Covid-19 having entered hospital without it.

And over the course of the pandemic they estimate around 200 people have probably acquired the virus while they have been in the care of hospitals.

Andrew Smith, emergency medicine consultant at Mid-Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs Dewsbury Hospital, said: “It’s a different way of working.

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“What we have to be careful of is that it’s a new norm. Going back to where we were is not going to be the case any more. Covid is going to be with us for a long time. There’s no doubt about that.

“We have 77 patients at the Mid-Yorkshire at the moment that are Covid positive. We have a number of trust personnel who are Covid positive. How we are going to maintain our workforce is a real, real challenge.

“The [term] that makes me want to cry is ‘fatigue’. I think most of our workforce has a degree of fatigue at the moment. I join that list. ”

David Birkenhead, consultant in microbiology at Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust (CHFT) added: “Covid is a very transmissible viral respiratory infection. It’s been incredibly challenging.

“Socially distancing, ventilation… we have tried to do all of that but nonetheless some patients are very symptomatic when they arrive as well. That’s difficult to control spread from.”

He added that the experience of patients at the moment “is not where we would want it to be” and highlighted long waits for elective care and in A&E.

He said staff had been very effective in keeping up with managing the “acute demands” for urgent care that patients have needed both in terms of managing Covid patients through the pandemic and other urgent conditions that have needed attention such as people with cancer.

A consequence of that has been longer waiting times for people needing elective or scheduled procedures.

Speaking at a meeting of Kirklees Council’s health and adult social care scrutiny panel (August 19), Mr Smith said: “It is very challenging to recover [waiting times] because Covid is still a significant pressure for us at the moment.

“We have over 50 patients with Covid at CHFT.

“The infection control precautions that we have to put in place to manage the spread of Covid limits our capacity, as well, and it limits flow in relation to being as efficient as we have been in the past.”

The trust has been investigating how to work more efficiently and has considered longer theatre lists and using technology to see patients remotely.