Shropshire Star

Cancer operations will be cancelled if Covid cases rise - Shropshire health boss

Hip, knee and cancer operations could be delayed if coronavirus patient numbers continue to grow, a Shropshire NHS boss has warned.

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Senior health officials say they are concerned that a rise in patients is going to lead to cancelled operation at county hospitals

Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin CCG Accountable Officer Mark Brandreth said the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital and Princess Royal Hospital had three wards full of Covid-19 patients between them – space they could did not afford to spare.

He told the Telford and Wrekin Health and Wellbeing Board vaccination was the “single biggest thing” the population could do to fight back, as virus transmission in schools was threatening to filter back to pupils’ parents and grandparents and could see hospitalisations grow.

He noted that nine out of 10 Covid patients admitted to intensive care were unvaccinated, and Angie Wallace – the Senior Responsible Officer for the county vaccination service – asked for councillors’ help in addressing hesitancy and scepticism in areas with below-average take-up.

Ms Wallace said the county’s first patient was vaccinated just over a year ago, and the government initially gave the local health system a target of vaccinating 91,000 people by February. She said they exceeded this, reaching six figures by February 19.

“This is testament to health, social care, local authorities, volunteers, everyone coming together to make that programme work so effectively,” she added.

She said Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin was above the English average in delivering third “booster” jabs, and was in the top 10 for vaccinating pregnant women.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation originally recommended a six-month interval between second and third injections but, in response to the omicron variant, reduced that to three months.

“That means we’ve got another 40 per cent of people eligible who weren’t eligible before,” Ms Wallace said.

“NHS England has asked us to increase our capacity by 40 per cent starting from next week rolling for a six- to eight-week period.

“This is a challenge because there are so many other constraints on our services.”

Mr Brandreth said: “At the moment we’ve got three wards full of Covid patients across the two sites. We don’t have three spare wards. So, actually, we aren’t doing as much elective operating – particularly hips and knees – in Telford as we would like because that ward has got Covid patients in.

“Please, please, if you can get your jab, get your jab. It’s the single biggest thing our population can do to try to help.”

He said he had “great concerns” about transmission in primary schools.

“We know we will see that move into children’s parents and grandparents over the next period, which is why we’re in a race against time to get people vaccinated as much as we can,” he said.

“My great fear is, if those three Covid wards become four or five, the thought of doing any elective operating – because that’s what would have to stop first – is really scary, because that would include things like cancer.”

Ms Wallace named Brookside, Dawley, Malinslee, Stirchley, Wellington’s College ward and Woodside as “key areas” that have seen “a lower uptake than the national average for first and second doses as well as boosters”.

Asked councillors to engage with their constituents to find out why unvaccinated patients had refused to come forward, and stress that the offer is “evergreen”.

“It’s never too late to come forward,” Ms Wallace said.

“We know vaccines work. They worked against delta and early evidence is starting to show they will work against the omicron variant but they will require three doses, not two.”

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