Covid-19 surge sees Whittington Hospital stop non-urgent adult services, but vaccine rollout begins

The Whittington Hospital

The Whittington Hospital. - Credit: Nigel Sutton

Non-urgent adult services have been stopped at the Whittington Hospital as it looks to free up ward space to deal with the second surge of Covid-19 infections. 

Infection rates continue to rise across Camden, Islington and Haringey, and in order to "free up staff and space on our wards" for Covid-19 care, a hospital spokesperson said it had been forced to take a difficult decision. 

This comes at the Whittington Health Trust has been able to begin vaccinating local people over the age of 80, care home residents, and NHS staff in the area. 

The first batch of vaccines arrived at the hospital on December 30, and phlebotomist Thaya Rajakulasingham was the first to get the jab.

Whittington Health phlebotomist Thaya Rajakulasingham was the first to receive a Covid-19 vaccine at the hospital. 

Whittington Health phlebotomist Thaya Rajakulasingham was the first to receive a Covid-19 vaccine at the hospital. - Credit: Whittington Health

With reference to the second Covid spike, a Whittington Health spokesperson said safe treatment of patients at the hospital and at home remains the priority.


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They said: "Like the whole of the NHS locally we are experiencing pressure as a result of a rapid increase in Covid-positive patients requiring hospital admission and as a result we have had to take the difficult decision to temporarily stop non-urgent adult services to free up staff and space on our wards to treat patients who require emergency, critical or Covid-19 care."

Services impacted by this include planned procedures and operations, routine outpatient services, and some community services. Cancer treatments and emergency care remain in place, as are services for children and young people.

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Discussing the vaccine, the spokesperson said: "Alongside the whole NHS we are embarking on our journey to deliver what it is the largest vaccination programme in our history. This will be a marathon, not a sprint, and we cannot let down our guard. But today, tomorrow and every day going forward will be another step on the path back to normal life for the country. The NHS will contact you when it is your time to be vaccinated.”

On Wednesday, it was announced that the Whittington's chief nurse 

New Year's Honours: Whittington Health's chief nurse made an MBE

Michelle Johnson

Michelle Johnson, chief nurse at Highgate's Whittington Hospital, has been made an MBE. 

Her boss Siobhan Harrington, who is the Whittington NHS Trust's chief exec, led the tributes, saying the hospital is "delighted" at the news. 

"Michelle has been a visible leader across all areas of the trust, with patient and staff safety as her absolute focus," she said.

The hospital boss also praised Michelle's "personal commitment, particularly her accessibility and visibility".

The chair of the Whittington Trust, Baroness Julia Neuberger, said the recognition for Michelle reflected the "outstanding work" of her colleagues, too.

She said Michelle had always shown "her calm professionalism and consistency in what has been an exceptionally pressurised year".

Michelle said: "I am genuinely shocked and humbled. I see it as acknowledgement not just of my work over the past year, but for the dedicated hard work of the whole team here."

READ MORE: New Year's Honours: Award for Primrose Hill youth worker among north London highlights

has been made an MBE in this year's New Year's Honours list. 

READ MORE:

Royal Free cancels procedures and restricts holiday amid Covid-19 surge

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The Royal Free has restricted staff holiday and cancelled some non-urgent procedures as staff fight the second surge of Covid-19 infections.

As hospitals across the capital come under increased pressure, the rise in cases in Camden was described as "alarming" by one GP.

The latest government data shows 35 Covid patients were admitted across the three hospitals of the Royal Free NHS Trust on December 20, by far the highest figure since mid-April. 

The figures show there were 244 Covid patients in the trust's hospitals as of December 23, with 78 at the Whittington.

A Royal Free spokesperson said: "Like all acute trusts in London, we are experiencing an increase in the number of patients with Covid-19 being admitted to our hospitals.

"As part of our plans to manage a second surge, we have postponed some non-urgent appointments and procedures. Annual leave for staff has been limited to ensure our hospitals are safe.

"We would like to thank our staff for their incredible commitment at this very challenging time."

It is understood that non-urgent surgery is now at a minimum, and staff have been told to limit holiday to five days — including bank holidays — between December 21 and mid-February.

A consultant at the hospital told this paper: "Although we're not at quite the same Covid peaks we saw back in  April, overall things are very busy and very tight here as we have the usual increased pressures on the ED (emergency department) and beds that we see every winter now, on top of the Covid surge."

Sir Simon Stevens, the Chief Executive of the National Health Service in England, at the Royal Free

Sir Simon Stevens, the Chief Executive of the National Health Service in England, at the Royal Free Hospital in London to see preparations and meet staff who will be starting the coronavirus vaccination programme from tomorrow. - Credit: PA/Dominic Lipinski

New cases in Camden, Haringey and Barnet are all continuing to rise. Government data shows that on December 29 Barnet had 753 positive cases reported, with 476 in Haringey and 315 in Camden. 

Camden GP Dr Daniel Beck, of the Swiss Cottage Surgery, said he had seen positive Covid test results in his patients rise rapidly in the last month.

He said: "In North Central London, and within my practice, we have seen an increase. I have seen a spike in new cases coming back in the last two weeks. On December 3 we had 10 positive Covid cases that week, today had 61 in the last week. That's alarming to me."

The Royal Free has been operating as a vaccine hub since early December,  and now the Whittington has also been given vaccines to offer local people.

READ MORE: England star Daybell works on Whittington ward during the pandemic

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