Most people in intensive care here now have Covid – how our hospitals face their ‘worst crisis’ of the pandemic

Covid patients now make up two thirds of people in our critical care beds as the region’s health lead warns Greater Manchester faces its ‘worst crisis’ since the pandemic began.

Fears are also growing that people with other life-threatening illnesses are now staying away from A&E, in echoes of the first wave.

But priority operations, including cancer, are continuing to be postponed as the region tracks close to its ‘worst case scenario’ for bed occupancy and attempts to manage scarce critical care beds.

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Sir Richard Leese, political lead on health for Greater Manchester, has warned that any results of New Year’s Eve mixing are also yet to be felt on the system – adding that when the peak does arrive for hospitals here it will not be over quickly, but is likely to plateau for some time.

New combined figures released for our hospital trusts this afternoon show another 37pc rise in the number of new Covid patients being admitted, adding an additional 818 people into the hospital system in a week.

(Image: Joel Goodman)

Those in critical care with coronavirus have risen another 24pc. The M.E.N. understands Covid patients now account for 65pc of all high dependency and intensive care patients being treated by the system.

Sir Richard Leese, political lead for health in Greater Manchester, warned intensive care patients are ‘continuing to increase again at a rapid rate’.

Noting that the system was ‘now beginning to see delays in priority operations’ as an ‘inevitable consequence’ of that, he said there was another further concern.

“Something we’ve not seen yet in the current round of the crisis is the diminution in the people coming into A&E who should come into A&E. We’re now beginning to see that,” he said.

“We’re now beginning to see people effectively beginning to avoid going to hospital.

“Clearly that’s a concern that people who do need urgent care aren’t taking that up. So we would continue to urge people who are seriously ill – see the GP, contact the GP, contact A&E. If you need treatment, get treatment. I think that’s a real concern.”

Sir Richard Leese
(Image: MEN)

Asked how the current situation compares to best and worst case scenarios projected by local NHS modellers, Sir Richard said Greater Manchester is ‘not far away from the worst case at the moment’ and warned the current situation ‘is not going to go away any time soon’.

“We haven’t reached the peak yet,” he said. 

“We probably will start to reach a peak in a week or two weeks, but then it’s not going to be a peak where we go over the top and come down. It’s more likely to be a plateau.

“We still haven’t got the numbers from New Year’s Eve…that will come next week.”

Greater Manchester’s infection rates are continuing to climb by 40pc a fortnight, much faster than the national average of 11pc, although not as fast as the figure for the North West as a whole – which, at 53pc, is being partly driven by areas such as Merseyside that are seeing even higher rates than those here.

Sir Richard said that while Greater Manchester was not likely to need a solution of the type being looked at by the NHS in London, where hospitals are reportedly considering the discharge of Covid-positive patients to hotels for care by family members, he said discharge was nonetheless a difficulty.

Changes in infection rates by region

“We could really do with help from families, apart from anything else, in discharge of patients,” he said.

“There are quite a lot of patients waiting discharge that have no medical reason to be in hospital and have no particular care needs either.

“It’s a real difficulty in some cases being able to persuade those people to be discharged from hospital, even though there’s no medical reason and we do need the bed.

“For a lot of older, frailer people families could be enormously helpful in that task of persuading people they need to go home.”

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Neither Sir Richard or Andy Burnham called for a tightening of restrictions – although the mayor said he didn’t rule it out – but said the key point was for people to follow the rules that are already in place.

“Please, we cannot say loud enough that message,” said Sir Richard.

“A big thankyou to everyone who is complying – and clearly that’s the vast majority of the population – but that message to that small minority who are putting people at risk: we are very much in the worst crisis we’ve been in, through the whole of the Covid situation.”

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