The NHS trusts under most pressure amid staff shortages and rising Covid cases

At least 24 NHS trusts across England have declared critical incidents due to staff shortages and rising Covid admissions as a government minister admitted the NHS was coming under “very real pressures”. 

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps defended the government’s decision not to go further than Plan B restrictions for England despite the difficulties being faced by the NHS and suggested new rules were not needed to improve the situation.

Shapps told Sky News that ministers were trying to find the “right compromise” between imposing further restrictions and not allowing hospitals to be “overrun” as new cases of the virus reach record levels. 

But he added that it was “not entirely unusual” for NHS trusts to “go critical over the winter – often with things like the flu pandemic”, even as he conceded that “there are very real pressures which I absolutely recognise”.

Of England’s 137 NHS trusts, at least 24 have declared a critical incident, reported the Daily Mail. Officials have not released a full list of affected NHS trusts, but a dozen have made their own criticial incident public.

Health bosses have already been forced to cancel non-urgent operations across hospitals in Greater Manchester, the BBC reported, while in the Northeast, heart attack victims were asked to make their own way to hospital after patients were waiting “on average for an hour” to be seen. 

The NHS trusts that have publicly announced critical incidents, according to the Mail, include:

  • Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
  • United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust
  • University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust
  • Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
  • University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust
  • Great Western Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust 
  • Norfolk and Waveney CCG
  • North East Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust
  • University Hospitals Bristol, Weston & North Bristol NHS Foundation Trust
  • Dorset County Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
  • Royal United Hospitals Bath NHS Foundation Trust
  • West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust 

Greater Manchester NHS Trust has said it is close to critical.

What is a critical incident?

A critical incident is something that can be declared by an NHS trust when “facing extraordinary pressure”, explained The Independent, and signals to hospital staff and patients that the hospital “will not be able to function as usual”. 

Critical incidents are usually declared in the wake of large numbers of staff being absent or a very high number of patients, but technical failures – such as IT systems crashing – can also lead to critical incidents being declared. 

In the latest wave of the pandemic, hospitalisations have been slower to rise than Covid cases, “with ministers buoyed by the booster rollout”, said The Guardian

But hospitalisations are rising. A further 2,258 people were admitted to hospital with the virus, according to the latest government figures published on Wednesday, taking the total to 17,276, the highest number since last February. The rapidly increasing number of cases has, in turn, meant that NHS staff are among the hundreds of thousands self-isolating.

On Wednesday, a further 194,747 infections were reported, one of the highest daily totals since the pandemic began.


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