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CORONAVIRUS: NHS bosses warn they are ‘extremely busy’ amid staffing shortages

CORONAVIRUS: NHS bosses warn they are ‘extremely busy’ amid staffing shortages

Prof Craig Harris, Wigan CCG -image taken from his Twitter profile

Health and social care chiefs in Wigan say NHS services are ‘coping’ despite increased demand and staff shortages caused by Covid-related absences.

Royal Albert Edward Infirmary, Wrightington Hospital and Leigh Infirmary have cancelled some appointments due to pressures caused by the Omicron wave.

GP practices in the borough are also busy and still facing ‘significant demand’.

Dr Tim Dalton, a GP who chairs Wigan Borough Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said the whole of the health and social care sector is ‘extremely busy’.

But Wigan CCG accountable officer Craig Harris told the governing body today (January 5) that the health and social care system is ‘coping as best [it] can’.

He said: “We have seen an increase in staff absences due to the effects of Covid. There is a rising level of staff absences across Greater Manchester estimated at 15 pc, be that staff with Covid or isolating.

“Wigan has, I think, fared quite well during the pandemic with regards to staff absence. Although we’ve had our pressure point and there’s been particular peak times, we’ve not been really featuring as an outlier.

“But it is fair to say that Covid is impacting on staff within Wigan as it is with many other areas and localities around the country.”

Harris told the governing body that patient safety is the ‘number one priority’.

GP practices have been ‘buddying’ with each other and hospitals have received ‘mutual aid’ to help services continue with the added pressure.

The borough’s health and social care system will continue to ‘think differently’ and make sure all of its available capacity is used as best it can be, Harris said.

He said the CCG is ‘incredibly grateful’ to all staff and volunteers in the sector.

But he added: “That does not mean to say that people are not busy.

“We have seen an increased pressure and demand on services. But I think it is fair to say that we are coping as best we can in the current situation.”

Harris confirmed that there are no NHS organisations within the borough of Wigan that have declared a critical incident which has happened elsewhere.

However, he acknowledged that the decision to pause some non-urgent surgery and hospital appointments will be ‘disappointing’ to those affected.

Urgent care, including cardiac surgery, vascular surgery and transplantation, will not be affected and the Christie will continue to provide cancer care.

However, due to a ‘sharp’ rise in hospital admissions, Greater Manchester health chiefs have taken the ‘difficult decision’ to pause some elective care.

Harris said: “This is a temporary measure. We are aiming to affect the fewest number of patients possible. I know this will be disappointing for some people.

“We have worked tirelessly to maintain the services to the highest quality.

“But we feel that this is the best decision in the short term.”

Hospitals will be contacting those affected as soon as possible and patients are advised not to contact their hospital or GP practice for this information.

Anyone not contacted, can assume their treatment will continue as planned.

Those patients waiting for treatment and can find advice and support on the Greater Manchester While you Wait website (

Words: Joseph Timan, Local Democracy Reporter

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