Hospitals run out of critical care beds despite falling rates

The number of Covid patients in Norfolk's three largest hospitals has fallen for the first time since September

The total number of hospital patients who have died after testing positive for coronavirus in Norfolk has now passed 1,000. - Credit: Brittany Woodman/Sonya Duncan

Two hospitals in Norfolk ran out of critical care beds in the last week of January, as Covid continues to batter the NHS despite falling infection rates and admissions.

NHS data shows there were 32 critical care beds free in the county on January 31, which is a slight improvement on the 21 available the week before.

But staff at the James Paget University Hospital (JPUH) and the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) ran out of critical care beds on separate days in the same week.

At the JPUH, all 12 critical care beds were occupied on January 31, while all 16 of the QEHs critical care beds were taken on January 25. It is the second week in a row the QEH has seen a day with all critical care beds full.

By January 31, there were 31 critical care beds free at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH), with one extra bed free at the QEH.

Norfolk as a whole hit a record 85 critical care beds occupied on January 29.

Hospital bosses have previously said that in such situations resources can be shared, with patients needing critical care moved between hospitals.

But despite the worrying critical care beds situation, the number of Covid patients overall in Norfolk’s hospitals dipped below 600 for the first time in a month, further suggesting we are moving beyond the peak of the latest wave. 

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There were 562 Covid patients in hospital in the county as of February 2, down from 682 the week before. 

Another encouraging sign is the falling number of new virus patients being admitted to hospitals. The weekly total of new admissions fell from 465 in the seven days to January 24 to 355 in the week leading up to January 31.

Infection rates in Norfolk are now below 300 per 100,000 people, with the rate recorded at 272.4 on January 30. The last time it was below 300 was on December 26.

Government data also suggests the R number - which tracks the average number of infections caused by a person with Covid - has fallen to between 0.7 and 0.9 in the East of England region. Anything below 1 should see a fall in cases over time.

Health workers wearing full personal protective equipment (PPE) tend to a patient on the intensive c

Health workers tend to a patient on an intensive care unit - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

Covid patients now make up less than a fifth of all patients at the NNUH and the JPUH, down from around a quarter the week before.

There are also signs that Norfolk’s main hospitals are not as full as they have been in recent weeks.

Both the NNUH and the QEH were at 89pc capacity as of February 2, compared to 95pc and 96pc the week before.

There were 202 and 189 Covid patients at those hospitals respectively, compared to 270 and 169 the week before.

At the JPUH, there were 79 Covid patients, down from 115 the week before, but the hospital is still reporting 94pc of beds occupied.

At West Suffolk Hospital, there were 91 patients in beds on February 2, down from 127 the week before.

The Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust – the region’s mental health trust – reported 15 Covid patients in beds, down from 44 last week.

And the Norfolk and Suffolk Community Health and Care Trust has seen the number drop slightly from 84 to 77.

Our maps below show the pressure the virus is putting on hospitals across the region.

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