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Gravesham council leader calls for the NHS to break its silence on the pressure in Kent's hospitals

The leader of a Kent council has called for hospital staff to be able to speak out about the pressures they are facing because of Covid-19.

Cllr John Burden, head of Gravesham council, believes if people had a better picture of the strain on our health services it would encourage them to comply with Tier 3 restrictions.

Cllr John Burden wants hospital staff to be able to speak out
Cllr John Burden wants hospital staff to be able to speak out

He has written a letter to the borough's MP Adam Holloway, asking if he can contact NHS England about allowing senior clinicians to speak publicly and on the record.

He wrote: "Discussions with NHS colleagues in Kent indicate the current rate of Covid admissions is twice that recorded during the first wave of the virus and still rising at pace.

"Myself and leaders of other borough and district authorities from across Kent have been calling on senior clinicians from local NHS bodies to speak publicly and on the record about the intense pressure on our hospitals.

"We are all seeing large numbers of our constituents becoming at best complacent about following Covid rules and at worst, wilfully ignoring them.

"We believe if the full and worrying story of the strain on our county's hospitals is laid bare, a large percentage of those people would return to following government guidance, helping us all within Kent to justify to local people, businesses and visitors why the county is in Tier 3 restrictions, something that is proving increasingly difficult when backed by silence from the NHS."

Adam Holloway MP for Gravesham
Adam Holloway MP for Gravesham

He goes on to say that he believes senior clinicians are being prevented from speaking publicly by NHS England management and calls this an "ill-thought through policy".

He adds: "I would ask you to bring whatever pressure you can to bear on NHS England to allow local clinicians to speak openly about the issues at our hospitals and the urgent need for our residents to abide by all Covid measures to help ease the pressures they face."

Mr Holloway says he has been in touch with NHS England and has given his backing to Cllr Burden.

He said: "I fully support councillor Burden and hospital staff: whilst the NHS is coping, please can everyone make it easier for the NHS to give the best possible care to all patients, and pass on these concerns to their friends and neighbours.

"In the last couple of weeks the number of people in hospital with Covid in Kent and Medway has nearly doubled to over 800, as have the number of people in critical care beds. The rate of admission is now double what it was in the first wave."

Medway Maritime Hospital
Medway Maritime Hospital

Swale and Medway have the highest coronavirus infection rates in England, with Dover, Maidstone, Gravesham, Canterbury and Ashford also in the top 10 areas, according to Public Health England data.

Half of the intensive care beds at Medway Maritime Hospital are being used by people with coronavirus, while at least one-third of intensive care beds are being occupied by Covid-19 patients across Dartford, Gravesham and Swanley too.

Speaking at the end of November Adam Wickings, the NHS winter director for Kent and Medway, said local health services have been hit "very significantly" and earlier than any other part of the south east of England.

He added: "We are fairly often getting to the period where we seem to have no intensive care beds left at all."

NHS England has been contacted for a comment.

To keep up-to-date with all the latest developments with your local hospitals and other health stories, click here.

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