The first coronavirus death in close to a month has been recorded at the trust which runs Colchester Hospital, but hospital bosses say they’re seeing fewer patients with the virus than ever.

NHS England figures show 355 people had died in hospital at East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust as of 5pm on Tuesday.

This was an increase of one and the first death at the trust in 29 days.

But addressing a public board meeting of the trust yesterday, chief executive Nick Hulme said the trust was seeing very few Covid patients at the moment.

He said: “In this part of the country we continue to see significantly low numbers of people infected.

“In the last month we have only had five coronavirus patients access both hospitals.

“It is difficult but we are now starting to look at the infrastructure we set up in March in terms of the command and control room, the strategic management team meeting and the clinical reference group.

“We are taking some time to review the governance structure and the set up in place, not wanting to dismantle it all because we need to be ready for an increase in the numbers of cases.”

He added: “I think we have shifted the emphasis of leadership and management away from dealing with the immediate effects of the pandemic to dealing with the aftermath or consequences and the patients who are on our waiting lists.”

Mr Hulme added: “There is a risk of a second wave, although what we are seeing even in those areas where we have seen growth of positive cases, often driven by increases in testing, we are not necessarily seeing any more pressure on the health and care system.

“It seems to be people who are infected tend to be younger and less vulnerable and are not putting further pressure on health services.”

At the meeting, Mr Hulme said coronavirus had further “exposed the inequalities” in communities, with an official Government report finding those from deprived or ethnic minority backgrounds were more likely to die of the condition.

He said: “I have started conversations with Ed Garrett, head of the North East Essex Clinical Commissioning Group, to look at how we should be finding a way of tackling this inequality which we have always known has existed but has been further shown by coronavirus."

In July the trust accrued Covid-19 related costs of £3.5 million, bringing the total bill of the pandemic to £12.8 million so far.

It is still waiting for an announcement from the Government on its financial settlement.

Mr Hulme said: “We are pushing for at least a decision.

"It will never be as much resources as we need but in the absence of clarity it is proving difficult to plan.”