THE Royal Blackburn and Burnley hospitals have started to resume treatments suspended during the coronavirus pandemic after the number of critical cases more than halved.

Bosses at the East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust are starting to redeploy doctors and nurses seconded to Covid-19 care to their normal duties.

Home births have already resumed with six new mothers taking advantage of them in the last week.

Blackburn MP Kate Hollern said: “I am glad to hear that staff will be able to return to normal duties.”

The moves to resume normal service follow the number of inpatients in the two hospitals who tested positive for coronavirus falling from 130 at the peak of the pandemic to 96 yesterday.

The figure for those patients receiving critical care has dropped from 25 at the height of the Covid-19 outbreak to 11.

Managers are also encouraging staff involved in tackling coronavirus to take annual holiday to recover from the pressure and long hours they have been working.

Jawad Husain, ELHT’s executive medical director said: “We are just beginning to see a decrease in coronavirus patients.

“The admissions have dropped to a consistent level and we are thinking about what the new ‘normal’ will look like for healthcare. Of course our hospitals and community services remain open and operational.

“It is important that people seek treatment if they have symptoms – particularly in respect of cancer, heart disease and stroke.

“Please continue to follow the government guidelines. Rigorous handwashing and social distancing will help to avoid a second peak of the virus.

“I also want to thank the public for their cooperation and understanding during this time. We know it is difficult not being able to visit loved ones but these actions really are helping to keep people safe and reduce pressure on our staff.”

Mrs Hollern said: ‘East Lancashire has had proportionately fewer diagnosed Covid-19 cases than other areas and I thank everyone for playing their part in observing the lockdown – this is without doubt saving lives and helping our hospitals.

“It is important that people suffering from other health conditions, including cancer and heart patients, are able to get the essential treatment they need and so I am glad to hear that staff will be able to return to normal duties. “

ELHT human resources boss Kate Quinn said: “I want to thank all of our amazing staff – they are working tirelessly throughout this pandemic.

“Some have sacrificed seeing their immediate families to allow them to continue providing care for our patients.

“The flexibility shown by our staff who have been redeployed to other areas of work, be that on the Covid wards or elsewhere, is truly humbling.”

Professor Dominic Harrison, Blackburn with Darwen Council’s public health director, said: “This is good news. I don’t think the hospitals will be able to reintroduce a full service yet but it is important that people needing urgent treatment for other conditions can access it. I welcome the fact that patients with other serious conditions than Covid-19 will now be able to get the treatment they need more easily.”

Ms Quinn said: “Staff health and wellbeing is really important and the Trust is now encouraging small numbers of staff to take some annual leave and get some much deserved time off. We also have ‘Oasis’ facilities within our spiritual care centres where staff can go to reflect and rest.

“When it is time for our staff to return to their substantive roles, we will continue to offer support during these transitions.”

Mr Hussain said said many hospital services had continued during the outbreak using digital consultations instead of face to face appointments while the accident and emergency Department had remained open though with fewer people attending.

He reminded residents that seeking medical help is one of the four reasons that people can safely leave home, in line with government guidance and the NHS remained still there for patients without coronavirus who need urgent and emergency services for stroke, heart attack, and other life threatening conditions.

Mr Husain said that people needing urgent medical help should use the NHS 111 online service, ring 111 or if it was serious or life-threatening emergency, call 999

He added that when patents were told to go to hospital it was important they went and that patients should continue to attend their appointments unless told not to.