West Suffolk Hospital declares 'internal critical incident' as Covid surges

West Suffolk Hospital will be rebuilt as part of the governments pledge to provide 40 new hospitals by 2030 Picture...

West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds is dealing with staff shortages - Credit: Archant

Bosses at West Suffolk Hospital have declared an "internal critical incident" due to the number of staff who have been forced off with sickness.

Health leaders at West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the Bury St Edmunds and Newmarket hospitals, took the decision last week.

A total of 6.5% of the trust's staff are currently off sick, with 3.2% absent due to Covid.

Earlier this week West Suffolk Hospital revealed there were 343 absences on December 26, with 146 linked to the virus.

Visiting is still suspended at the hospital due to Covid cases in the area, with only limited exceptions in place.

Craig Black, interim chief executive at West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, said the hospital had opened more beds and focused on discharging patients to cope with demand.

Craig Black, interim chief executive at West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust

Craig Black, interim chief executive at West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust - Credit: West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust

He said: "To alleviate the pressures across our health and care system in Suffolk, we have taken a number of actions in addition to our normal working practices, including opening additional beds and extra focus on discharging patients who are ready to go home.

"Since the start of the pandemic, our staff have worked tirelessly to care and support every single patient who needs our care and I want to commend them on their dedication and hard work in very busy circumstances.

"The public can help us to be there for those patients who need us the most by getting their Covid and flu jabs, by using the free, 24/7 NHS 111 online or phone service for urgent health issues and only coming to A&E if absolutely necessary."

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A series of hospital trusts throughout the country have recently declared critical incidents, with Covid cases at an all-time high nationwide as the Omicron variant continues to spread. 

Over the county border, Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital moved to its highest alert level on Tuesday, while the East of England Ambulance Service Trust has been on its top alert level since last summer. 

But the entire Norfolk and Waveney health and social care system declared a "critical incident", meaning it is unable to deliver "comprehensive" care.

A spokesman for East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust, which manages Ipswich and Colchester hospitals, confirmed the trust had not announced a critical incident.