One in EIGHT NHS hospitals didn't have any spare ICU beds last week

One in EIGHT NHS hospitals didn’t have any spare intensive care beds last week, official figures show as units still caring for 3,600 Covid patients

  • NHS figures published today reveal 18 out of 140 major trusts were at 100% occupancy in their ICUs last week
  • Also show that ICUs are more than 70 per cent busier than they have been at any time over the past five years
  • There are still more than 3,600 critically-ill Covid suffers  in English hospitals out of 5,400 total ICU patients

One in eight NHS trusts in England did not have a single spare intensive care bed last week, official figures show as hospitals continued to grapple with the winter wave of critically ill coronavirus patients.   

NHS England figures published today reveal 18 out of 140 major trusts had 100 per cent occupancy in their ICUs on every day in the week ending January 24, up slightly on the 15 that were full to the brim the previous week.

These included University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust, one of the largest trusts in England, along with Sandwell & West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust and George Eliot Hospital NHS Trust, which are also in the West Midlands.

But the problem was not confined to the Midlands, as major trusts in the North and in Yorkshire — including St Helens and Knowsley Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust and Chesterfield Royal Hospital — also reported having no spare critical care capacity.

Even hospitals in the South West, which had managed to avoid the worst of the pandemic throughout 2020, were seeing their ICUs pushed to the brink, with Portsmouth Hospitals University National Health Service Trust and the Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust recording 100 per cent occupancy.   

There are still more than 3,600 critically-ill coronavirus patients in English hospitals as a result of the devastating second wave that took off in December thanks to the emergence of the super-infectious Kent variant. Last year, when the country was dealing with the older Covid strain, there were huge regional disparities across the country. 

But the new variant, which is also thought to be 30 per cent more deadly, has stretched NHS intensive care capacity in every region to its limit, with hospitals having to open emergency ICU beds and scrap thousands of operations to free up space for incoming Covid sufferers. 

Today’s figures also show that ICUs are more than 70 per cent busier than they have been at any time over the past five years — with 5,446 critical care beds occupied on January 24, the most recent day statistics are available for. For comparison, there were 3,034 critically-ill patients at the same time last winter, and the average over the last four years stood at 3,183.  

Even though the number of people in intensive care in England has risen by about 5 per cent in the last seven days, there is reason to believe the numbers will start to fall in the coming weeks. Hospital admissions of people with Covid-19 have plummeted by a third in the last week and the number of patients in hospital with the virus is starting to fall in all regions of England.

WHICH NHS TRUSTS’ INTENSIVE CARE UNITS WERE COMPLETELY FULL LAST WEEK? 

The number of patients waiting more than an hour to be handed over from ambulance teams to A&E staff has also dropped to its lowest level since the start of the year.

The figures suggest tighter restrictions on people’s movements and activities introduced across England after Christmas, culminating in the nationwide lockdown from January 5, are starting to have an impact.

A total of 2,648 hospital admissions of people with Covid-19 in England were reported for January 25, according to figures from NHS England.

This is down 29 per cent on the equivalent figure for a week earlier, and is the lowest since December 31.

Cases of coronavirus caught on hospital wards have fallen by a third since the start of January despite a record number of inpatients, NHS figures show.

The data shows the average number of Covid-19 cases caught on wards in England has dropped from 553 on January 10 to 369 on January 25, a fall of 33 per cent.

This has happened despite the number of patients in hospitals rising throughout the month, with a now record 3,600 people in intensive care and 32,000 inpatients.

The data shows the average number of Covid-19 cases caught on wards has dropped from 553 on January 10 to an average low of 369 on January 25 across England

Falling in-hospital infections, also known as nosocomial infections, come alongside a decline in daily hospital admissions in all regions of England.

The number of Covid cases caught in hospital on any single day this month was highest on January 4 with 635 cases, a day before the third national lockdown came into force.

This then halved to a low of 304 on January 22, while the daily average, calculated over seven days, has declined more slowly.

 

All regions are now recording week-on-week decreases in daily admissions, including a drop of 35 per cent in the Midlands and 32 per cent in London.

The number of Covid-19 patients in hospital has also fallen week-on-week in all regions. London has seen the biggest drop, with 6,272 patients at 8am on January 27, down 17 pe cent on the previous week.

South-east and south-west England have both seen an 11 per cent week-on-week fall, to 4,811 and 2,094 patients respectively.

The Midlands and eastern England are both down 6 per cent, with 5,940 and 3,811 respectively. In north-east England/Yorkshire the number is down 4 per cent to 3,654, and in north-west England it is down 1% to 4,264.

For England as a whole, the number of Covid-19 patients stood at 30,846 on January 27, down 9 per cent on the previous week and the lowest number since January 10.

Separate figures from NHS England show the number of patients waiting longer than an hour to be handed over from ambulance teams to A&E staff at hospitals in England fell last week to its lowest level since the start of the year.

A total of 3,283 delays of more than 60 minutes were recorded across all acute trusts in the seven days to January 24.

This compares with 3,333 in the previous week, and 5,513 in the seven days to January 10, which was the highest weekly figure so far this winter.

University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust reported the highest number last week for an individual trust (289 delays of more than 60 minutes), followed by Dudley Group NHS Foundation Trust (155) and University Hospitals Bristol & Weston NHS Foundation Trust (132).

A handover delay does not always mean a patient has waited in the ambulance. They may have been moved into an A&E department, but staff were not available to complete the handover. 

Meanwhile, cases of coronavirus caught on hospital wards have fallen by a third since the start of January despite a record number of inpatients, separate NHS figures show. 

The data shows the average number of Covid-19 cases caught on wards in England has dropped from 553 on January 10 to 369 on January 25, a fall of 33 per cent. 

This has happened despite the number of patients in hospitals rising throughout the month, with a now record 3,600 people in intensive care and 32,000 inpatients. 

Falling in-hospital infections, also known as nosocomial infections, come alongside a decline in daily hospital admissions in all regions of England.  

The number of Covid cases caught in hospital on any single day this month was highest on January 4 with 635 cases, a day before the third national lockdown came into force.

This then halved to a low of 304 on January 22, while the daily average, calculated over seven days, has declined more slowly.

The total number of Covid-19 patients on wards remains ‘incredibly high’, Professor Chris Whitty warned this week, and is 80 per cent above the peak of the first wave.

And the numbers on mechanical ventilators are at their highest level since the pandemic began at 30 per cent above the levels in April, although in the most recent days this has started to dip on a national level.

Preventing the spread of coronavirus in hospital is being achieved by all patient-facing staff wearing large amounts of protective equipment.

All are required to wear gloves, masks and aprons whether they are meeting Covid patients or not.

And wards have been segregated to keep Covid-positive patients away from others who are there for treatment for other serious illnesses.

The risk of transmission in hospitals is high because patients generally have large amounts of the virus in their body, which is what makes them sicker, and medical staff regularly have to touch them and get extremely close.

Testing surveys have found that staff working in patient-facing medical roles are more likely to contract coronavirus than the general population.

But hospitals are now warning that keeping Covid and non-Covid patients separate is becoming increasingly difficult as wards get ever busier.

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