Hospital declares 'critical incident' after surge in Covid patients

A hospital in Devon has declared an 'internal critical incident' due to a surge in coronavirus patients. 

University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust, which runs Derriford Hospital in Plymouth, said the step had come after it experienced its highest level of Covid occupancy of the third wave

Around 97% of the hospital's beds are reportedly currently occupied, with bed occupancy averaging around 95% in recent months.

The trust has warned it expects the situation to get worse.

Plymouth, United Kingdom - July 16, 2012: Derriford Hospital was build in 1981 and is a large teaching hospital covering health care for the southwest of England. The photograph shows the main entrance to the hospital on a dark overcast day. Vehicles can be seen parked up with people visible in the entrance.
Derriford Hospital in Plymouth has experienced a surge in COVID patients, forcing it to declare an 'internal critical incident'. (Getty)

In a statement, Jo Beer, Chief Operating Officer at University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust, said: "The Trust entered an internal critical incident on Monday. This is an internal protocol to focus all departments on immediate de-escalation actions whilst in OPEL4 (the highest level of escalation)."

Such a step includes measures such as cancelling non-urgent meetings in order to increase 'release clinical time back to the wards', the statement said.

It added: "The incident was declared due to high bed occupancy and a sustained high level of Emergency Department attendance converting into an above-average level of admission.

"We are experiencing our highest level of covid occupancy of the third wave and expect this to increase further – as a result we have reconfigured our bed capacity to manage both covid and non-covid capacity but this needs continual review.

“Pressure is also being felt in the region’s wider health and social care system, this presents some impact on the ability to discharge patients into the community care settings when medically fit."

According to government figures, the number of Covid cases in Plymouth has been sitting around a seven-day average of just under 200 for the past few weeks. 

Case numbers spiked at 468 on 15 July then dropped slightly but rose again to 271 on 17 August. 

As of Wednesday (25 August), there were 141 daily positive cases.

Covid number have also risen nationally, with a total of 35,847 positive cases recorded on 25 August - a rate of 339.3 cases per 100,000 people. 

The government figures showed 236,796 positive cases in the seven days up to 25 August - up 25,558 on the previous seven days. 

In a video message, Deputy Medical Director Paul McArdle said the hospital was experienced "high operation pressures", with large number of people attending its Emergency Department, including 130 people at 11pm on Tuesday night, which he said would usually be much quieter.

He said the pressures of coronavirus numbers was affecting both patients and staff and had forced the hospital to introduce measures such as the cancellation of routine surgery, and the "unpalatable step" of restricting access for visitors.

He urged people to consider other possible ways of seeking medical attention, but said they are still offering emergency treatment for those serious ill or injured. 

He also urged people to take up their Covid jab, saying it will help reduce the pressures on the health service.

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