‘We’re not out of the woods yet, but we have started to turn a corner’: East Sussex hospital boss looks back at a winter of Covid

The chief executive for the East Sussex NHS Trust has given her insight into how Covid has shaped winter pressures within the trust and praised staff for their ‘amazing dedication’.

Wednesday, 31st March 2021, 9:56 am

The chief executive for the East Sussex NHS Trust has given her insight into how Covid has shaped winter pressures within the trust and praised staff for their ‘amazing dedication’.

In November the number of cases in Hastings were rising and an infectious variant in Kent was getting more coverage.

Joe Chadwick-Bell said the increase in Hastings was a ‘surprise’ because of its consistent low numbers of Covid rates.

Joe Chadwick-Bell SUS-210330-165826001

She said, “The local community was rightly proud that this had been the case throughout the first wave and the summer.”

This increase went on to spread to Eastbourne’s DGH and resulted in an ‘eight-fold increase in the number of Covid positive inpatients in the trust’ in December, according to Ms Chadwick-Bell.

She said, “At the height of the second wave we had over five times the number of Covid positive inpatients when compared to the height of the first wave. By early January nearly 60 per cent of our beds were being used to care for patients with Covid.

“When we saw the first signs of the increased cases in Hastings and the new variant, our incident management system kicked back in and we started to prepare for the inevitable increase in hospital cases.

“Our priority is always to care for those most in need and to keep patients and our staff safe. That’s very easily said, but in reality it meant some very challenging decisions for us.”

Planned surgeries were rescheduled to focus on caring for Covid patients, emergency and cancer care.

Home births and the maternity unit at the DGH were also suspended.

Ms Chadwick-Bell said, “The midwifery team worked hard to make sure that anyone who was moved to Conquest got an experience as close as possible to the one they were expecting at home or at our midwife-led unit.”

The work of all trust staff has been praised by Ms Chadwick-Bell too – saying they have shown ‘amazing dedication’.

She said, “Getting through the last three months, indeed the last 12 months, has been a joint effort from our amazing and dedicated 7,000+ community and hospital teams, working alongside our system partners across Sussex and social services and other healthcare services in East Sussex.

“I cannot put into words how proud I am to work as part of this team. We are also so appreciative for the tremendous support we have had from our local community – a wide range of donations to support our staff, along with people offering their time to volunteer and support our teams.

“We are not out of the woods yet, but we have started to turn a corner.

“Over the last few weeks, we have started to see Covid numbers reduce as the effect of lockdown and the vaccination programme take effect.

“We have started to close some of the additional beds that we opened and are gradually returning some services.”