Hospital Trust reports Covid cases up again, deaths very low, but ‘Pingdemic’ causing staff chaos
North West Anglia NHS Foundation Trust, the body responsible for Peterborough City Hospital has reported that Covid cases are dramatically rising again, and while deaths are very low, a ‘Pingdemic’ among staff is causing absence chaos.
Large numbers of staff needed at PCH are unable to come back to work because they have been ‘pinged’ on their NHS Covid app on their phone, and are therefore required to self-isolate.
Addressing members of the board of directors at their monthly meeting, held at PCH, CEO Caroline Walker said: “Since the board last met a month ago when I reported that Covid levels were falling, we now find ourselves in the opposite situation where our staff are once more under significant pressure as Covid levels rise.
“Whereas we were reporting many days of no Covid patients, and certainly many weeks of no deaths of Covid-related causes, we now find Covid is having a significant impact again, post-lockdown easing.
“Even though this was forecast and prepared for, the challenges we are now facing are impacting on everything we do, and we now have complete wards of Covid patients again, instead of just a few isolation-rooms.
“This time round the rise in numbers has been combined with our trying to get our waiting list activity reduced.
“Our waiting list grew throughout Covid, and while the pandemic took priority of course, we still want to reduce our waiting list as soon as possible and as much as possible.
“One of the things I wanted to highlight in my report is the challenges we’re facing at the moment with our staffing levels.
“July and August are peak times for our staff to take leave through vacations, and this is quite normal.
“But we now find ourselves in the situation where those staff who are not on vacation are away from work having to self-isolate because they have been ‘pinged’ on their Covid-app.
“In fact, we’ve suffered something of a ‘Pingdemic’ over the past few weeks with larger numbers than expected are away from work, which in turn has had the knock-on effect that we cannot provide the services we would want to, particularly in maternity.
“Sadly, as a result of this, for the time being we’ve suspended some of the maternity services we would normally expect to provide, including home-births, thereby keeping our midwives and birthing staff on the main PCH site for safety.
“This is not something unique to Peterborough by any stretch of the imagination; in fact, this is a county-wide and nationwide issue, and we will just have to find other ways to work through the problem.”
Louise Tibbert, chief people officer, added: “The impact on our workforce has been a bit of a latent-impact, inasmuch as we are providing mental health support alongside staff care to bring them back into meaningful work.
“It has been a very long eighteen months, and we’re very aware of the stress and fatigue-levels that our staff are under and we want to do everything that we can to help them.
“Absence, in all its forms, including through leave and vacations has been factored into our works schedules as we always do; but as Caroline has already pointed out, we have been double-whammied by the ‘Pingdemic’ which has affected so many of our staff that would normally be expected to be on duty at this time.
“We are continuing to support a small number of ‘shielders’ back to work, and, with the ‘Pingdemic’, we’re seeing increasing numbers of frustrated staff who want to come back to work but feel compelled to observe Covid rules and continue to self-isolate, even if they show no signs of the contagion.
“What we’re doing now is having daily conversations with them about the nature of the ‘Ping’, the nature of their isolation and whether a close family member is involved.
“Every morning at 8am we have a meeting of the ‘Ping Panel’, who review the individual and then take a health and safety assessment as to whether or not people can come back to work, and what mitigations we can put in place to get them back to work.”
The next meeting of the NWAFT board of directors in early October.