Hospitals in southern England worst affected, with Devon recording highest ever numbers of Covid patients
Rising numbers of people entering hospital with Covid
are leading to other patients becoming infected, staff absences, delayed operations and long waits in emergency departments, experts have said.
In recent weeks, Covid
infection levels have been rising in the UK and hospitalisations are also increasing.
The number of people in hospital with Covid
in Devon has doubled in a fortnight and is higher than at any other point in the pandemic, according to the NHS Devon clinical commissioning group (CCG).
“The last time Covid
-19 numbers were this high was in January 2021, before most people had the benefit of Covid
,” it said in a statement.
While far fewer Covid
patients were in intensive care, the rise in patients with Covid
was having a significant impact, it said.
“Many people have tested positive for Covid
-19 while in hospital for other conditions, and this has led to patients who are already vulnerable becoming more unwell and also impacted on the ability to admit other patients.”
According to data for England, the number of people in hospital with Covid
increased from 8,210 on 3 March to 11,346 on Thursday.
Meanwhile, data released by the UK Health Security Agency on Thursday revealed that the overall weekly hospital admission rate in England for Covid
in the week ending 13 March was 13.38 per 100,000 compared with 11.67 per 100,000 the previous week.
The highest rates were in the south-east and south-west, at 19.31 and 19.30 per 100,000 respectively, with the West Midlands the only region in England to show a decline. The highest admission rate was among those aged 85 and older.
While rising infection levels in the community mean the number of people in hospital who have an “incidental” Covid
infection is likely to be rising, the number of those who are being treated primarily for Covid
rose from 3,445 on 3 March to 4,475 on 15 March, according to NHS England.
In addition, analysts have suggested hospital-acquired Covid
infections are rising.
Ian Currie, the medical director of Torbay and South Devon NHS foundation trust, said: “While it is encouraging that the majority of our patients who have tested positive for Covid
-19 are in hospital for other conditions and are asymptomatic or experiencing mild symptoms, the impact that the presence of Covid
-19 has in our hospitals is really significant.
“Under current infection prevention and control guidelines, one patient testing positive for Covid
-19 can result in the closure of the whole ward, meaning that beds are unavailable for emergency admissions and for planned operations. This means people waiting longer for treatment in the community and operations being cancelled or postponed and long waits in emergency departments for people needing a hospital bed.”
Dr David Strain, a senior clinical lecturer at the University of Exeter medical school, told the Guardian the situation was continuing to deteriorate.
“What we are seeing here is what we’re expecting the rest of the country to be seeing over the next week to 10 days,” said Strain, adding that the pressure on hospital beds had coincided with the rise of the BA.2 subvariant of Omicron.
Strain said a key difficulty was in maintaining the option for people to visit patients in hospital.
“For now, our solution is we are giving them all the face masks and asking them to do their lateral flow test before they come to visit,” he said. “But of course, when lateral flow tests cease to be free in 10 days’ time, that’s going to be a big issue.”
Last week the Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS trust announced it would be suspending visiting immediately because of a rise in the number of patients with Covid