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A major hospital trust has made its highest number of bed closures “for many years” due to covid staffing pressures.

Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals Trust lost 933 bed days in the first week of June due to staff testing positive for covid or being required to isolate.

That meant around 10 per cent of Newcastle FT’s beds were closed that week at its three hospitals.

The trust has been hit hard by the summer covid wave and has had to postpone some planned operations. Covid patients requiring intensive care at the trust have also risen sharply in recent weeks.

There are signs the situation in Newcastle could soon stabilise, however, as the rates of increase of covid bed occupancy, and new admissions, are beginning to slow down at the trust.

Nobody at the front door

Last winter NHS England hoped the 111 service would become “the front door for urgent care” for patients and play “a more prominent role” in reducing unnecessary accident and emergency attendances.

But months after the national launch of ‘111 First’ it appears many patients don’t know where this ‘front door’ is.

Latest figures show just 3 per cent of A&E attendances nationally are ‘booked’ through the 111 First service.

And Healthwatch England says the NHS has not done enough to publicise this new service.

Imelda Redmond, the outgoing national director of Healthwatch England, has said there is a “real gap in high quality communication” to the public from the NHS – which she says “has not been strong enough” in promoting the 111 First Service.

NHS England pointed out tens of thousands of people are now using the 111 First service – and it ran a national TV campaign last winter promoting it.