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Covid-19 'still killing people in Newcastle and Gateshead' warn NHS leaders as hospitals and GPs still under huge pressure

Covid-19 claimed the lives of at least five people in each of Newcastle and Gateshead last week.

At a meeting of the Newcastle Gateshead NHS CCG governing body, Jackie Cairns and Lynn Wilson - directors looking after each side of the Tyne - told top NHS figures how, though the official data shows steep falls in Covid-19 prevalence and drops in hospitalisations, this does not mean that people have stopped becoming seriously ill and even dying with the virus.

Ms Cairns, who has responsibility for Newcastle, said: "We have had five deaths. and we have six care homes still in outbreak. Newcastle Hospitals is still reporting pressure there too. They still have staff sickness. Vaccine supply is also difficult at the moment. It's there, it's available, but it's making sure it's getting into the right place for the right people."

Read more: 'Burnt out' Gateshead GP warns ten minute appointments aren't 'fit for purpose'

Ms Wilson explained it was a similar picture in Gateshead, too. And though it only has data from the week ending May 13 - the Government's coronavirus data dashboard illustrates this. In Newcastle those seven days saw three deaths with Covid-19 on the death certificate. Gateshead saw one death according to the data that week.

This comes as hospitals in our region remain under serious Covid-19-related pressures, directly and indirectly. Both the QE (38) and Newcastle's Freeman and RVI (28) have more than a ward's worth of Covid-19 patients as of the latest data - and with pressure on beds due to delayed discharges, the huge elective surgery waiting lists and incredibly busy A&Es continues.

At the CCG's governing body meeting, execs explained how the NHS is struggling to meet huge demand across the board. Julia Young, who looks after nursing, patient safety and quality, said: "Everyone is really struggling with the capacity needed. It's about dealing with the patient harm suffered while people have been waiting for treatment."

She said that this increased demand was being felt across primary care - GPs - as well as in hospitals, where "the urgent care demand has been really challenging over the last few months". She also said "staffing challenges" when it comes to recruiting and retaining qualified health professionals was also an issue - exacerbated by Covid-19 related sickness and burnout.

CCG finance boss Joe Corrigan added that there were "pressures across the board".

The official Government case-rate data is less reliable than it was in terms of estimating the spread of infection because of the sharp decline in testing capacity around the country. This comes after two new variants were designated as "of concern" by the UK Health Security Agency last week.