Hospital chiefs raise alarm as pandemic puts extreme pressure on staff

Hospitals are facing “significant pressures” as staff juggle coronavirus patients and those needing non-Covid treatments.

Hospitals are dealing with extreme pressures during the pandemic
Hospitals are dealing with extreme pressures during the pandemic

Medical chiefs today warned if the situation continues as it is, then there will be twice as many Covid patients in hospital than there were at the start of lockdown in April this year – meaning other operations and procedures will be delayed.

It comes as the NHS warns it is facing a “real problem” across the country, as the number of beds open to patients is still well below last year’s figures.

Virus rates are now starting to fall, but new figures reveal there were 284 Covid-related deaths in the West Midlands in the week to November 13 – the highest figure since mid-May.

CEO of University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Trust Dr David Rosser said: “Hospitals are under significant pressure. If things continue then we will be heading to having twice as many Covid patients in November than we did in April or March last year.

"That pressure also impacts on the planned operating we do.”

John Oxtoby, medical director at Stafford County Hospital added: “Unlike the first surge where there was a national directive to stop all non-urgent appointments and procedures, we have continued to provide care for all.

“Sadly we have now had to reschedule some operations to ensure the safety of our patients and our services.”

Number of beds remains low at under pressure hospitals

Medical chiefs have warned the NHS is facing a severe problem across the region with the number of hospital beds open to patients still well below last year’s figures.

Hospital bosses across the Black Country and Staffordshire have admitted that many non-Covid treatments have had to be delayed, so coronavirus patients can be seen urgently, due to increasing pressures.

NHS data shows there has been a drop in the number of beds available compared to this time last year.

David Maguire, senior analyst at the King’s Fund, said: “Many hospitals were operating separate units for Covid and non-Covid patients, so staff were stretched more thinly and unable to safely staff as many beds overall.

“It’s one thing to have physical beds available, but staff are the real limiting factor when it comes to actually using them.”

Figures show an average of 827 beds were available overnight at the Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust between July and September.

This was an increase of 29 per cent on the 643 average between April and June, but still lower than the 859 available during the same period in 2019.

At University Hospitals of North Midlands NHS Trust there were 1,373 beds available overnight between July and September – a decrease of four per cent on the 1,434 average between April and June, and also lower than the 1,411 that were available during the same period in 2019.

Levels

In Walsall there were 464 beds available between July and September, a very slight increase compared to during the pandemic but lower than the 484 available in 2019.

Over in Sandwell there were 643 beds available during the same time – but this was lower than the 706 in 2019.

And in Dudley there were 676 beds in July and September, which was actually higher than the same period in 2019 when there was 663.

A spokesperson for the hospitals in the Black Country and West Birmingham, said: “The NHS is experiencing different levels of pressure across the Black Country and West Birmingham.

“Our staff are working incredibly hard to continue to provide high quality care for Covid and non-Covid patients where possible.

“While responding to Covid and those in most urgent need is our priority, the less Covid admissions we see the more non-urgent care we can provide too.

“It is vital that everyone plays their part by following government guidelines reducing the amount of contact you have with others and remembering hands, face, space.”

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