Military personnel deployed to help N&N cope with Covid pressures

A member of the military at the ExCel centre in London which is being made into a temporary hospital

A member of the military at the ExCel centre in London which is being made into a temporary hospital - the NHS Nightingale hospital, comprising of two wards, each of 2,000 people, to help tackle coronavirus. Photograph: Yui Mok/PA Wire. - Credit: PA

Military personnel are being deployed to help the overstretched Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital cope with the pressure of treating so many people with coronavirus.

Thirty trained military medical staff will be helping support clinical staff at the hospital which is treating three times more patients with Covid-19 than at the maximum during the last peak.

Erika Denton, NNUH medical director, said the hospital was currently treating more than 250 patients who have contracted Covid in the last 14 days and 70 who have been on its wards longer than 14 days, and numbers are continuing to rise

Erika Denton, Medical Director at NNUH. Photo: NNUH

Erika Denton, medical director at NNUH. - Credit: NNUH

Speaking on BBC Radio Norfolk, she said: “Although the numbers being diagnosed in our population is beginning to fall, of course people don’t come to hospital until they have had Covid-19 for around a week to 10 days when they usually get their sickest, so our numbers are continuing to go up.

“We’ve got over 30 patients in our Intensive Care Unit. Normally we look after around 20 patients at the most, and we are expecting that number to go up because we are the centre that has planned and is equipped ready to take extra patients should the need arise.”

The NNUH, together with Addenbrooke’s and Papworth hospitals, take the most critically ill patients from across the region. 

Military personnel being made available comes after Norfolk County Council said the NHS, through the Norfolk Resilience Forum, had asked if it could provide what is known as mutual aid - making staff available to give the NHS assistance, for the next four weeks - in a signal of just how much pressure the county's hospitals are under.

A nurse wearing PPE works on a patient in the ICU (Intensive Care Unit) in St George's Hospital in T

The NNUH is at more than 90pc capacity (Stock image). - Credit: PA

Ms Denton said staff were under significant pressure, adding to by more than one in 10 being off sick themselves either with Covid or self-isolating. Staff have spoken of wards being overwhelmed.

“The council are offering us some support with staff for non-clinical roles are we are in discussion with them,” she said.

“All people are hugely welcome and I and my colleagues have been working with many groups to bring people who worked in the NHS previously back in, so called NHS reservists. 

Lauren Jacques, Deputy Sister on the Critical Care Complex, shares her video diary on a night shift talking about her...

Lauren Jaques, deputy sister on the NNUH Critical Care Complex, shared her video diary on a night shift talking about her Covid-19 experiences. - Credit: Lauren Jacques/Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital

“We also have some help coming from military colleagues with 30 military personnel who are trained at a bit like our healthcare assistants. 

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“They will be coming in to support our clinical staff.”

She added: “This has never been done before. This is the most challenged the NHS has ever been and it is unprecedented times for all of us. 

“I’m hugely grateful for the offers of help that we have had from the public and from those who used to work in the NHS returning.”

The UK's chief medical officers have warned that the NHS could be overwhelmed within 21 days in some areas.

The NNUH, together with Addenbrooke’s and Papworth hospitals, takes the most critically ill patients from across the region.  - Credit: PA

The pressures from coronavirus has had a knock-on effect for patients waiting to be treated for other conditions.  

Ms Denton said: “We’ve had a short period of time where we haven’t been able to do as much cancer surgery as we’d like to.

“We are now going to be doing quite a lot of surgery at the Spire Hospital in Norwich and that is going to mean we will catch up with the backlog of the more urgent things. More routine surgery I’m afraid will have to wait until the peak of this pandemic has eased and we have more capacity in the hospital.

Nurses in uniform and face masks at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital

The team on Brundall ward at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital are among the frontline staff we are thanking today. - Credit: NNUH

“It is really challenging for people who have been left in pain who are waiting for procedures on joints for example. The waiting times have become the longest I’ve ever known them in my practice.”

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