NHS Grampian’s chief executive said she is “very confident” the health board is prepared and could cope with any future resurgence of Covid-19 in the north-east.
It comes as her second in command, deputy chief executive Adam Coldwells, said the health board believes it has “definitely reached a peak” in terms of the numbers of people admitted to hospital or intensive care with serious symptoms of the life-threatening virus.
Amanda Croft, chief executive of the health board, said: “The key public message is that if that (a resurgence) does happen for whatever reason then I feel very confident that we are prepared for that and we would be able to cope with that.”
The most recent figures released by the National Records of Scotland up to May 10 show the virus has claimed the lives of 187 people across the NHS Grampian area since the outbreak began.
In terms of hospitalisations for patients with confirmed cases of Covid-19, this peaked in the NHS Grampian region at 99 on May 4, 11 and 12 and has dropped every day since Friday, standing at 88 on Monday.
Adam Coldwells, deputy chief executive at the health board, claims the data started to flatten a “couple of weeks ago”.
He added: “We definitely saw a little bump of additional activity as we were starting to plateau. However, over the last few days, we are absolutely seeing the number of people who are very poorly and being admitted to hospital coming down so we think we have seen a reduction in the level of disease.
We’re feeling like we have definitely reached a peak.”
Adam Coldwells, deputy chief executive of NHS Grampian
“The bit that is slightly confusing in terms of the number of cases is we keep, as a country, changing who we are testing so our knowledge about the people who don’t become poorly with Covid-19 is getting more and more accurate, so the number of people who have Covid-19 is slightly misleading as it keeps changing as we change who we test.
“But absolutely, critically, with the people who are becoming more poorly with Covid, in terms of the numbers going to hospital and the numbers needing intensive care, is definitely reducing locally now.
“We’re feeling like we have definitely reached a peak.”
Mr Coldwells said there could be a resurgence of the the disease in the future, adding this is why politicians have been mindful of keeping the reproduction value below one.
The R-number, or reproduction value, is a measure of the average number of people who will be infected by one individual with Covid-19.
If the R-number was above one it would show the virus is spreading in the population and if it is below one it is declining in the population in terms of the number of cases.
He added: “One of the key public health messages is about making sure we keep R below one so we hopefully don’t get another sudden, secondary peak of the disease in our community but that’s absolutely possible if the spread of the disease rises if lockdown changes.”
Waiting times hit
Meanwhile, the health board has faced a well-documented struggle to meet some of its waiting time targets in recent years, with fears the outbreak could lead to a backlog in operations.
Ms Croft said staff have been looking continuously at the people on waiting lists and what the outbreak means for them and will start to formulate a short-term plan over the next few weeks on how it addresses this issue.
This will then progress to formulating a medium and longer-term strategy for elective surgery, following guidance from national teams and the Scottish Government.
She added: “Over the past year we improved those waiting times greatly and it’s quite upsetting, particularly for many of the staff who worked hard to bring those waiting times down.”
Praise for staff
The health board chief said she has been “constantly amazed” by the efforts of staff during such challenging times.
She added: “In Grampian, our vacancies and recruitment is quite a challenge; however, staff constantly cope.
“We’ve had a number of major instances over the years where staff get on with it and cope. It’s no different here, the staff have been very practical, very involved and very mature and work really hard.
“They’ve gone above and beyond to make sure relatives can speak to their relatives and friends via iPads and things.”
It’s been overwhelming at times, it has been very humbling.”
Mr Coldwells said it was not just the doctors and nurses who deserve praise but also the cleaners, those that run the laundry, HR and payroll team and those that keep the system running.
The support of the military has also proved invaluable, Ms Croft said, in supporting the doctors and nurses on the frontline and the way in which the people of the north-east have listened to the public health message was also praised by the health board chief.
She said: “It’s been overwhelming at times, it has been very humbling.”