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West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds looks to focus on A&E due to fall in Covid-19 admissions

West Suffolk Hospital has reverted one of its Covid wards to its former use after witnessing a ‘continued reduction’ in coronavirus demand.

Chief executive Steve Dunn told board members last week that the Bury St Edmunds infirmary had seen a ‘massive fall in infection rates’ in the past weeks.

“We are on our way out of lockdown and it is clear the vaccination programme is making a massive difference,” he said in the meeting which was streamed on YouTube.

West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds
West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds

The hospital currently has four positive inpatients but none in critical care. Chief operating officer Helen Beck said: “We are seeing low levels of Covid admissions, they do continue, and therefore we do need to be incredibly vigilant.

“Non-Covid activity has increased sharply, so we are back to seeing more than 200 admissions to the emergency department on a daily basis which is considerably busier.”

She said ward F7 would be closed as a Covid ward as a result of the low level of admissions related to the virus.

Almost 80 per cent of staff at the hospital have now had a Pfizer vaccine, with the second dose scheduled in the next 12 weeks. Board meeting papers show 4,363 (76 per cent) of staff had received the jab, while it was noted there was ‘no concern’ around disproportionate take up. Dr Dunn noted the ‘tensions’ between public demand and ‘exhausted staff’.

He added: “The vaccine is a personal choice but we are strongly encouraging it and doing everything we can to reach those groups that maybe don’t want to for a variety of reasons.”

The Hardwick Lane hospital has also just returned its staff survey in which 2,000 employees (46 per cent) took part. The report noted a ‘reduction in most scores’ although they remain ‘above average for comparator organisations’. Across the 10 key areas of inspection, West Suffolk Foundation Trust was found to be above average for five, average for two, and below average for three.

Dr Dunn said: “There is clearly more we need to do around making sure staff feel safe to speak up and we need to get better at listening and learning.”

The hospital has enacted an endoscopy restoration and recovery plan, which will see it increase their capacity to get through a backlog for the procedure.

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