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Hospitals in north of England ‘to run out of Covid beds within a week’

Some hospitals in the north of England are set to run out of beds for Covid patients within a week, health chiefs are warning, amid growing signs that the disease’s fast-unfolding second wave will seriously disrupt normal NHS care for a second time.

a person in a blue room: Photograph: Neil Hall/AP

© Provided by The Guardian
Photograph: Neil Hall/AP

NHS trusts in the north-east and north-west are getting so many new Covid cases every day that some are already planning to ditch routine surgery again to free up staff and beds, despite a health service-wide diktat that they should continue to provide normal care this time round.

“Mutual aid” plans are also being laid for hospitals to take Covid cases from outside their area to help relieve the pressure on those in which all beds equipped to treat such patients have filled up.

Matt Ashton, Liverpool’s director of public health, told the Guardian that the city’s two main acute hospital trusts are admitting so many new Covid patients every day that they may reach their maximum capacity by the end of next week.

“I don’t want to panic people but within seven to ten days our hospitals will be at the level they were at the peak of the pandemic.”

In a meeting chaired by England’s chief medical officer, Chris Whitty, on Thursday, MPs from the north and the Midlands were warned that some hospitals there could see even more Covid patients in intensive care units than during the spring peak within 22 days if no further action was taken.

MPs from the north and the Midlands have been warned that some hospitals could see even more Covid patients in intensive care units than during the spring peak.

© Photograph: Neil Hall/AP
MPs from the north and the Midlands have been warned that some hospitals could see even more Covid patients in intensive care units than during the spring peak.

Ashton said: “If the north-west capacity is likely to be reached in 22 days, we will get there first – Liverpool will get there first.”

The number of Covid patients being treated by the city’s Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen trust and Aintree University Hospital NHS trust has soared from 100 to 200 in the last week. The two trusts have about 400 beds between them which are suitable for caring for such cases. The fact that hospitalisations are doubling every seven days means they could reach their limits of 400 very soon, especially as Liverpool now has one of the highest infection rates in England, added Ashton.

“It’s doubled in a week in effect from roughly 100 to roughly 200. That’s hugely worrying,” said Ashton, adding that on current trends another doubling would see all 400 beds full by late next week. “Beds will fill up quickly now. This is the point where the NHS will start to struggle in doing its normal routine business alongside its Covid business.”

MPs who were briefed by Whitty and health minster Edward Argar believe that the government is preparing to impose further new restrictions on northern England, aimed at curbing the spread of infections, despite many of the local lockdowns already in force having failed to achieve that.


Spanish ICU Adds Beds for Winter After ‘Terrible Avalanche’ of Patients Earlier This Year | World News

BARAKALDO, Spain (Reuters) – At the Cruces hospital just outside the Spanish city of Bilbao, the sound of power drills and hammers rings out as a construction crew gets to work on a new intensive care ward in preparation for a potential winter surge in COVID-19 cases.

“Winter is going to be a high-risk time for us as more people will be staying at home in enclosed spaces, raising the risk of infection,” said Dr Alberto Martinez Ruiz, the hospital’s head of anaesthesiology and recovery.

During the epidemic’s first peak in March, when the virus spread unchecked through Spain’s population, the hospital struggled to accommodate an unprecedented surge in critically ill patients.

“Our experience of the COVID epidemic was of a terrible avalanche of patients in a short time,” Dr Ruiz recalled. “In March we were admitting up to seven or eight patients a day.”

Irregular spaces like gyms were hastily transformed into wards, rapidly increasing capacity to more than 80 beds from 32.

“From one day to the next they all filled up. That allowed us to save lots of lives,” Dr Ruiz said.

Imposing one of Europe’s toughest lockdowns helped Spain bring down the contagion and gave the health service a chance to regain its footing. But infections have soared since the nationwide confinement ended in mid-June, with cases now rising by more than 10,000 a day.

Spain has logged nearly 770,000 cases, more than anywhere else in Western Europe, and almost 32,000 deaths.

Hospitalizations are on the increase too but the number of severe cases remains far lower than during the first wave and ICUs across the country have plenty of spare capacity for now.

The average age of patients admitted to Cruces is now between 60-65, around 10 years lower than during the first wave.

“Patients are being admitted earlier than expected but in a much more staggered fashion,” Dr Fermin Labayan, head of Intensive care at Cruces, told Reuters. “We don’t have the same pressure.”

With the new ward boosting capacity to more than 200 critical beds and just 14 patients currently admitted, the medics feel the hospital should be able to cope even if severe cases begin to spiral and they now have of experience of which treatments are most effective.

“We are mentally quite tired… But we are prepared,” Dr Labayan said.

(Reporting by Vincent West; Writing by Nathan Allen; Editing by Alexandra Hudson)

Copyright 2020 Thomson Reuters.

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