Health Matters February 2022

Three Issues in this month’s Health Matters

  • Covid Update
  • Elective Surgery Recovery Plan
  • Urgent Care in St Albans

1. Covid Update – First, I want to remind you of an old saying – “the Stock Exchange will do whatever it needs to do to prove the majority wrong! Well I feel Covid has just done that to me!!! Last month I reported how rapidly the then new Omicron variant had gone from zero to the peak in just two weeks; and, at the time it was coming down just as rapidly. That was when all we knew about was the BA1 variant of Omicron. The BA2 variant emerged just after our last podcast and caused a new wave of cases.

So here are the key figures in terms of daily cases for St Albans District:

  • Pre Omicron Peak – 770 cases per 100,00 in Jan 2021
  • Omicron BA1 Peak – 1956 on Dec 22
  • Omicron BA2 Peak – 1462 on Jan 28
  • Today (FEB 16) – 965

And we’re again above the Hertfordshire  average which is 822! But in terms of Hospitalisations, we’re still doing well – throughout 2022 the average has been around 70 in hospital beds in Watford and the Lister. That’s still quite high and is double the pre-Omicron level; but it’s around one-sixth of the peak. 74% of the people in our hospitals were not fully vaccinated.

So whilst, from the start of the Omicron variant to its peak was around 3 weeks; it’s got a far longer tail!

And as far as Covid Restrictions are concerned; we are currently in Plan A restrictions and although they are scheduled to end on MAR 24 they are very likely to end a month early!

2. NHS Elective Recovery Plan  –  there are over 19,000 people in the St Albans District currently o the NHS Waiting List for delayed elective surgery. Some of them have been waiting over 2 years!

Just over a week ago, Sajid Javid announced the Government’s plans to bring this down; the announcement covered three specific developments:

  • Community Diagnostics Centres – the idea is to create local diagnostic centres to enable patients to get more rapid checks, scans and tests rather than having to wait for over-capacity diagnostics within hospitals. The key metric is the 6-week wait for diagnostics; pre-Covid, 96% were within six weeks; today that figure is 74%.
  • Surgical Hubs – the Surgical Hubs, established in Watford, Lister and the L&D hospitals allow more surgeries in a single a day than in typical outpatient settings so they can fast-track operations and make sure patients are more likely to go home the same day.
  • The Virtual Hospital – allows more pre and post op appointments to be done away from the hospital and releases bed capacity within the hospital.
  • Waiting Well – the NHS will be launching a new online platform called My Planned Care which will go live this month, offering patients and their carers tailored information ahead of their planned surgery. It will show people where they are in the queue and will link patients to Healthcare Professionals who will ensure that they are able to “wait well”!

3. Upgrading the Minor Injuries Unit to Urgent Care

Remember the old Minor Injuries Unit in the City Hospital? I reported last year that the plan was to upgrade this to an Urgent Care Hub this year. So what’s the significance of that change in name? Minor Injuries treats just what it says – Injuries; an Urgent Care Unit treats Illnesses as well. The plan was that it would be operational by the middle of the year but that has just slipped to September. A substantial procurement process is due to start soon and that will determine who is the successful bidder for the new facility.

Alan Bellinger
16th February  2022

Alan Bellinger Written by:

Alan is a Trustee of Healthwatch Hertfordshire and very well engaged with all things related to Health & Social Care within the Community. After retirement from a successful career in the private sector (working in both training and Information Technology), Alan wanted to get involved in supporting local health issues and has an excellent understanding of what it takes to ensure a great patient experience, Alan has lived in St Albans for well over 65 years; he is a widower with two children and he especially enjoys the company of his five grandchildren – four of whom live in the local area.

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