Some 2,000 NHS staff in Kent & Medway are currently absent from work due to Covid-19.
The Kent and Medway Clinical Commissioning Group, which is the local strategic lead for the NHS response to Covid-19, says all services are reporting adequate staffing levels to maintain priority services, despite the significant numbers of NHS staff self-isolating with symptoms or in households where another person has symptoms.
The absences represent around 7.75% of the workforce, excluding primary care.
Freeing up beds
The CCG has also revealed that more than 1,000 beds have been freed up as hospitals in Kent and Medway prepare to care for more patients with coronavirus.
All hospitals in the county have been working with community and social care partners to discharge medically fit patients. Increased discharges have freed up over 1,000 beds out of a total of 2,600 across Kent and Medway.
Mental health response team
A mental health Covid-19 response team has been established as part of the NHS Kent and Medway incident response structure. The team is looking at developing 24/7 open access to crisis response teams with Kent and Medway NHS and Social Care Partnership Trust.
This would reduce demand on 111 and 999 services and lessen attendance at emergency departments to limit risk of spreading Covid-19. The mental health Covid-19 response team is also developing a package of support for NHS staff.
GP surgery ‘hot and cold’ sites
This week NHS Kent and Medway CCG also agreed new standard operating procedures with primary care networks – GP surgeries – that will see the development of ‘hot and cold sites’ for seeing patients who need a face to face assessment.
.GP teams are offering as many telephone and video appointments as possible to limit the number of patients needing to travel to be seen in person; but there will still be times when people need to see a clinician face to face.
People without covid-19 symptoms will be seen at a cold site. People with symptoms or from a self-isolating household will be seen at a hot site.
To ensure people are directed to the right location all primary care appointments are now pre-booked by phone with no walk-in or on-line self-booking. Most of the 42 primary care networks across Kent and Medway are using their existing surgeries to separate hot and cold services.
In a small number of cases models using temporary structures or other non-health sites are being developed, some as drive thru sites. These are not testing centres.
The CCG says work is also taking place to provide Personal Protective Equipment.
Wilf Williams, Accountable Officer, NHS Kent and Medway Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “We know access to PPE has been a key area of concern. We are working hard to make sure staff on the frontline in NHS Trusts, primary care and other services such as care homes, hospices and home care providers have access to the right PPE for the work they are doing.
“The national guidance on PPE has been updated today [April 2] and this week we are mobilising a central warehouse to supply all core services across Kent and Medway.
“The service is being managed by CCG staff and is working across health and care partners. Our new approach will bring all PPE supplies into a single point for Kent and Medway and then distribute it locally based on need.
“This will improve the speed of being able to resupply individual services through a local stockpile and prevent a situation of unused stock sitting in one location whilst another runs low. We are encouraging all local services to join the central service.
“The warehouse will also include 200 3D printers producing protective visors.”
NHS staff virus tests
Arrangements for NHS staff testing for the virus are also taking place.
Mr Williams said: “The Government has taken the decision to offer Covid-19 testing for NHS staff who are symptomatic. In Kent and Medway we are currently developing plans for a range of ways for staff to access testing. More testing will mean staff who do not test positive for Covid-19 will be able to carry on providing patient care, whereas otherwise they would be required to self-isolate for seven days.”
The latest data from government shows as of 9am on 2 April, 163,194 people have been tested, of which 33,718 were confirmed positive.
As of 5pm on 1 April, of those hospitalised in the UK who tested positive for coronavirus, 2,921 have died.
The figures on deaths relate in almost all cases to patients who have died in hospital and who have tested positive for COVID-19. Slight differences in reporting in devolved administrations may mean that they include a small number of deaths outside hospital.
The figures are compiled from validated data provided by NHS England and Improvement, Health Protection Scotland, Public Health Wales and the Public Health Agency (Northern Ireland). These figures do not include deaths outside hospital, such as those in care.
In Kent and Medway there are now 641 recorded cases of people testing positive for the virus.