Worst case scenario could mean 12,500 coronavirus cases in Norfolk at next peak, health experts warn
PUBLISHED: 17:24 14 October 2020 | UPDATED: 17:24 14 October 2020
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A worst case scenario could see a peak of 12,500 coronavirus infections in Norfolk at some point in the months ahead, with hundreds of people having to be treated in hospital, health experts have said.
However, they stressed the figures are at the “extreme end” of modelling, with the county having seen a peak of between about 5,200 to 6,500 infections during the first wave in April.
But, in an effort to ease pressure on Norfolk’s hospitals, people could be asked to book slots if they need to attend A&E departments.
Dr Penelope Toff, a locum public health consultant working with Norfolk County Council, said there had been 3,841 cases in Norfolk up to October 6 and cases had been rising again since the end of August.
She told a virtual meeting of Norfolk’s Health and Wellbeing board how Norfolk’s infection rates were lower than England as a whole and the East Of England rate - but they were increasing.
But she said: “Looking forward, we have applied some modelling to the Academy of Medical Sciences predictions. When I say predictions, these are scenarios, not forecasts or anything like that, but reasonable worst case scenarios.
“At the extreme end of that, we might be looking at a peak week within the next few months of 12,500 infected - I think those would be rolling seven day averages and we could expect about four to five per cent of those hospitalised.”
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Dr Toff stressed Norfolk had a robust outbreak control plan. She said: “We do recognise where the potential hotspots are. It’s being managed very well at the moment and it will continue to be managed very well both in a continued strategy to the place and the wider community.”
The most cases Norfolk had during a single day during the peak earlier this year, was 78 cases, in April, although that only included pillar one testing - those tests carried out by Public Health England in labs and hospitals, so not the wider community or care homes.
The meeting also heard about winter planning to ease pressure on social care and hospitals at a time when coronavirus cases are increasing.
Ross Collett, associate director for urgent and emergency care at Norfolk and Waveney Clinical Commissioning Group, said people would be urged to ring NHS111 first, rather than turning up at A&E departments.
He said: “The key strategic thing about how we manage demand across the system is looking at the NHS111 first model.
“What we know from previous winters, is we see peaks of demand at the front door of our emergency departments, where patients will turn up without having had any contact with a clinician or anybody else necessary within the system.
“That can lead to overcrowding of our emergency departments and, in the context of the pandemic, that can put people at risk, potentially, from Covid.” He said patients would be urged to contact GPs or ring NHS111 in the first instance, with pre-booking of slots for those whose needs are deemed to require a trip to A&E.
He said: “In the past, people will have turned up to emergency departments. Now through the 111 model we will look to book people into slots who have less of an urgent care need.
“That will allow emergency departments to plan their workflow through.”
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