The number of Covid-19 patients in Newcastle's hospitals has dropped by more than a third since the beginning of November - and hospital bosses have put that down to the success of the vaccination booster programme.

Government data shows there were 80 patients in Covid wards at the RVI and the Freeman on November 1. That was down to 49 patients on November 23, and Angela O'Brien - Director of Quality and Effectiveness - said there had been a "considerable reduction" in the number of severely ill patients too.

However, with a rise in the acuity of patients attending A&E - along with unprecedented attendance - the hospitals remain under severe pressure.

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Speaking at a meeting of the hospital trust's board, Ms O'Brien said Covid-19 still had a "significant" impact on hospital activity, but added: "There has been a fall to around 50 in-patients - but clearly that's still a staffing challenge."

She said: "The reduction in patients with Covid in the hospital is absolutely down to the booster vaccination programme. And the numbers have gone down. The number of severely ill patients requiring ventilation has gone down considerably too.

"But we are seeing an increase in children presenting at the Emergency Department. I think that's down to the challenges primary care are facing. When parents aren't able to to get appointments in the system they find themselves bringing children here."

In his report to the board, Medical Director Andy Welch wrote that the lower number of patients needing intensive care and ventilators meant at this stage the "surge" critical care ward at the RVI - ward 49 - was not needed.

"The reduction in ITU requirement in relation to admission numbers, and community prevalence, in comparison with the previous wave is maintained and at present we do not require an early winter move into critical care surge capacity," he said.

Mr Welch said funding to ramp up staffing if necessary "is secured and it remains in reserve".

On November 23, there were seven Covid-19 patients on ventilators in Newcastle according to the Government coronavirus dashboard.

This comes as the new Omicron variant of Covid-19 begins to be found in the UK.

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