Vaccine race against covid variant surge sparks Derbyshire NHS staffing crisis
Derbyshire has been pushed to vaccinate an extra week’s worth of patients against Covid within a month – 60,000 doses – prompting extreme staffing issues.
During a meeting of Derbyshire Community Health Services NHS Foundation Trust, officials said they have been forced to raise the warning level for staffing shortfalls at Derby Arena to the highest possible rating – known as OPEL 4.
Moving the warning level to OPEL 4 within the NHS is an extremely uncommon occurence – particularly outside of winter – and only happens in the most extreme circumstances.
OPEL 4 means that “pressure in the local health and social care system continues to escalate leaving organisations unable to deliver comprehensive care. There is increased potential for patient care and safety to be compromised”.
It also includes incidents of “unexpected reduced staffing levels” causing “increased pressure on patient flow at a level that compromises service provision and patient safety”.
They said that the situation looked to be improving for the rest of the week and into next week, but had seen Derbyshire’s NHS rushing to fill 17 wards’ worth of extra staffed shifts.
This escalation to the highest warning level has seen staff rallied in from across Derbyshire, including from Chesterfield Royal, the Derby and Burton Hospital Trust and Derbyshire Health United to keep the rollout running at pace.
Derbyshire as a whole has been regularly rolling out around 60,000 vaccines a week – a mix of first and second doses.
A move from government to surge second dose appointments, in a “race” to vaccinate to fend off the new variant of Covid which originated in India, saw an ask to bring in 60,000 additional appointments over the course of a month.
This was caused by reducing the gap between first and second doses for the over 50s from 12 weeks to eight weeks.
Derby Arena, health officials said, is now delivering 17,000 vaccines a week.
Meanwhile, the most recent week of data, to the week ending May 30, Derbyshire administered its highest amount of vaccine doses over a seven-day period to date – with 74,602 jabs given out.
Of these, three out of every four were for second doses.
Derbyshire has now administered Covid vaccines to three out of every four (77.86 per cent) of all the county and city’s adults and half (52.15 per cent) of all adults have now had both doses of the vaccine.
Michelle Bateman, chief nurse at DCHS, told the meeting that the escalation for staffing at Derby Arena was to retain “a safe and robust service”.
Tracy Allen, the trust’s chief executive, said staff from across Derbyshire were rallied to the Arena to surge vaccination capacity.
She told the meeting: “We have got a bit of a race to vaccinate everyone with the two doses to help protect the NHS.
“It (the variant which originated in India) has the potential to cause an increase in hospital admissions.
“The challenge now is to continue the vaccination programme at pace whilst at the same time to bring forward the second doses for cohorts 1-9.”
Cohorts 1-9 include care home residents and staff, frontline health workers, residents aged 50 and above and people with specific underlying health conditions which leave them more at risk from the virus.