An NHS hospital is bringing in military personnel trained in healthcare roles as it struggles with staff sickness amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
Erika Denton, medical director of Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, said: “We have some help coming from military colleagues, with 30 military personnel who are trained a bit like our healthcare assistants – slightly different role.
“They will be coming in to support our clinical staff.”
Speaking on BBC Radio Norfolk on Friday, she said the hospital currently has three times as many Covid-19 patients as at the height of the first wave.
“We’ve got a lot of staff off sick with Covid-19 or self-isolating because somebody in their family has it and that’s put us under even greater pressure,” she said, adding that current sickness levels were 13% to 14%.
“That’s obviously very significant for us,” said Prof Denton.
“It’s very difficult for us to staff the hospital when we’ve got lots of people off sick.”
She said the hospital is working to bring back people who have previously worked in the NHS, and Norfolk County Council has offered support for non-clinical roles.
“I think this is the most challenged the position has ever been for the NHS, and unprecedented times for all of us,” said Prof Denton.
She said the hospital’s intensive care unit normally cares for around 20 patients, but currently has more than 30 patients there.
Prof Denton said the hospital is treating more than 250 patients who contracted Covid-19 in the last 14 days, and a further 70 who have been at the hospital for longer than 14 days.
“We had a short period of time when we’ve not been able to do as much cancer surgery as we’d like to,” she said.
“We’re now going to be doing quite a lot of surgery at the (private) Spire Hospital in Norwich and that’s going to mean that we will catch up with a backlog of the more urgent things.
“More routine surgery I’m afraid will have to wait until the peak of this pandemic has eased and we have more capacity in the hospital.”
She added: “Everybody’s under significant pressure.”