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Sherwood Forest Hospitals Trust, which runs Newark Hospital, prepaing for short, sharp wave of omicron covid variant

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Three hospitals are preparing for a “short, sharp wave” of Omicron this month after covid cases doubled over the Christmas period.

Sherwood Forest Hospitals Trust says the week after December 25 had brought significant emergency demand, with its sites now operating at 100% bed capacity.

This includes an additional 80 beds created to manage the winter pressures and a surge plan put together when the omicron variant first came to light.

King's Mill Hospital. (28210505)
King's Mill Hospital. (28210505)

The trust, which runs Newark, King's Mill and Mansfield Community, hospitals, is currently treating 110 patients who are positive with the virus.

Figures show the trust was treating 34 covid patients at the start of December.

It follows a major surge in infection rates across Nottinghamshire as the omicron strain takes hold, with the most recent countywide rate standing at 1,786.7 cases per 100,000 people.

This is significantly higher than the rate of 1,299.4 registered on Christmas Eve, with covid cases more than trebling since this time last month.

Paul Robinson, the trust's chief executive, outlined some of the pressures being faced when the board of directors met on Thursday (January 6).

He said: “We have experienced significant emergency demand over the Christmas and New Year period as, indeed, has the whole NHS.

“This has led to unprecedented pressures on our services, teams and colleagues, and we’re currently operating at 100% bed occupancy levels.

“This includes what we would say is an additional 80 beds open at the moment, including 18 beds as part of a surge plan in December and the remaining additional beds in our winter plan.

“The numbers of covid-positive patients have doubled since Christmas Eve, and as of yesterday (January 5) we had 110 positive covid patients.”

He added discharging patients back into the community was a challenge, with the number of people medically fit for discharge in hospitals doubling as external partners experience operational difficulties.

It comes as 10.8% of the trust’s 5,000 workers are currently not in work, with Mr Robinson confirming 6% of these absences were covid-related.

This covid absence percentage equates to about 300 people across the trust.

But Mr Robinson says staff levels are currently safe and have been maintained this way throughout Christmas and New Year.

He said: “Despite all the pressures and challenges, we have maintained safe staffing levels and that includes the additional capacity we have opened.

“We’ve experienced no increase in demand for critical care beds, we’ve maintained our planned elective care and our ambulance turnaround times.

“Our incident control team now meets daily to coordinate trust response to the latest wave, and modelling on that wave predicts a short, sharp surge towards the mid-to-late January.”

The trust suspended all adult in-patient visiting on New Year’s Day to prevent the spread of covid-19.

It came in response to the trust seeing a surge in admissions of covid positive patients and workforce shortages created by covid isolation.

But Claire Ward, chairman of the board of directors, praised the way hospital staff managed the festive period.

She said: “Clearly our staff have put in an extraordinary level of effort over the last few weeks, particularly given we’ve had to open so many additional beds and provide additional services.

“It really has been a difficult time and a challenge.”

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