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Full picture of how covid is hitting hospitals in the north

PUBLISHED

The most comprehensive picture so far of how covid’s second wave has hit the NHS in the north of England is revealed in new figures obtained by HSJ.

The latest data confirms that parts of the North West region now have more coronavirus patients in hospital beds than they did in the spring. It comes amid intense public debate about the best way to fight covid, and whether or not it is close to swamping the NHS.

Collected from local NHS sources in a joint HSJ and Independent investigation, the information shows for example that:

  • Lancashire and South Cumbria had 544 confirmed covid hospital patients yesterday (around 15-18% of the bed base), about 20 more than during the April peak.
  • Liverpool University Hospitals – which remains the most severely affected trust – had 408 confirmed covid patients yesterday (20-25% of bed base), whereas it never topped 400 in the spring.

The data is sent routinely by trusts to NHS England but most of it is not published – something some politicians are now calling for.

As of yesterday, there were nearly 6,100 confirmed-covid patients across England, about 650 of whom were in critical care, and 560 receiving mechanical ventilation, according to information shared with HSJ.

The number of “unoccupied” hospital beds is much lower now than in the spring, when they were cleared out in anticipation of a major hit. In the North West, up to 5,500 acute beds were reported as “unoccupied” in the spring, whereas the figure now is about 2,500 (around 14-18% of the bed base).

However, critical care is the major pinch point in the most affected areas, with nearly half of the mechanical ventilation beds open at Liverpool’s hospitals (29 of 62) occupied by confirmed covid patients; and a third of those across the North West (178 of 556).

However, hospitals in the area have opened very few extra critical care “surge” beds so far. The total numbers of mechanical ventilation (a subset of critical care) beds open in LUH and the rest of the region has not increased much in recent weeks, and falls well short of what they have declared they could open as potential surge capacity, if they cancelled large amounts of non-urgent care and reorganised staffing and wards.

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Source: HSJ, 23 October 2020

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