Flu cases increase, but hospitals coping well with winter pressures

Flu cases are on the rise, but hospitals in Northumberland and North Tyneside so far continue to fare much better than last winter.

By Ben O'Connell
Wednesday, 30 January, 2019, 08:40
Dr Jeremy Rushmer, executive medical director at Northumbria Healthcare.

A winter planning update at Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust’s board meeting last Thursday (January 24) concluded that Christmas and new year plans were very successful, resulting in the quarterly emergency waiting-time target being met, continuing the positive trend for 2018-19.

Challenges include staffing shortages, particularly in nursing, and the flow and volume of ambulances.

However, chief operating officer Helen Ray said: “We know that we haven’t necessarily seen winter so far.”

And there was a warning sign on earlier this week (Monday, January 28), when the trust was forced to halt visitors to all inpatient wards at North Tyneside General Hospital due to a high number of flu cases, while less stringent visitor restrictions remain in place at the Trust’s other sites.

As of last week, 64 per cent of staff at Northumbria Healthcare had received flu vaccinations.

Executive medical director, Dr Jeremy Rushmer, said: “This is a considerable improvement on last year, but puts us in a disappointing result compared to our regional colleagues.”

In the high-risk areas of oncology, Special Care Baby Unit and critical care – where 100 per cent coverage is expected, the percentages are 100%, 100% and 92% (with vaccination ongoing) respectively.

Vaccination will continue until the end of February in line with national guidance and Dr Rushmer highlighted that we are currently ‘right in the middle of flu season with a number of cases and several who are very seriously ill’.

There is a national target of 75 per cent which is supported by income (known as a Cquin indicator) and is worth around £236,000 to the trust.

Failure to achieve 75 per cent uptake among front-line staff will lead to a loss of this income on a sliding scale. To achieve any payment, at least half of front-line healthcare workers must be vaccinated.

Ben O'Connell, Local Democracy Reporting Service