North West's largest hospital could reach 'crisis point' in the next two weeks

15 January 2021, 11:40

Medical staff transfer a patient through a corridor at The Royal Blackburn Teaching Hospital in East Lancashire
Medical staff transfer a patient through a corridor at The Royal Blackburn Teaching Hospital in East Lancashire. Picture: PA

By Laura Pratt

The largest hospital in the North West of England has told LBC they could face a crisis in the next two weeks, due to rising coronavirus infection rates and a lack of hospital beds.

Royal Blackburn Hospital in Lancashire say the number of patients currently in hospital with Covid-19 is double what it was back in March 2020.

They also need dozens more beds over the coming weeks, in hospitals already saturated with patients.

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Interim Medical Director for East Lancashire NHS Hospitals Trust Dr Ian Stanley told LBC the situation is "worse than in the first peak."

"Today we have around 340 positive Covid patients in the hospital, and within intensive care we have 36 Covid positive patients, and another 8 in our respiratory high care area, which is significantly higher than we had in the first peak," he explained.

"Where as in the first wave, we peaked at around 150 Covid positive patients across the hospital over two or three days, and then it quickly waned down - this time it’s 300, and staying there or, if anything, going up.

"Similarly on intensive care, we’ve been running at anything between 30 and 35, 40 patients with Covid - for the last month or so probably."

Dr Stanley added that there is an urgent need for more beds across the whole of Lancashire and Cumbria, but hospitals have nowhere to put them yet.

"We’ve all opened surge beds, we’ve all opened super surge beds," he said.

"Normally across Lancashire and Cumbria, we have 84, 85 critical care beds - at the moment we have 146 critical care beds open, and 138 of them have patients in - and 97 of those are Covid’.

It comes amid warnings that Lancashire is yet to hit its peak in terms of community infections.

Linda Gregson, matron on the intensive care ward at Royal Blackburn Hospital, told LBC that it is "worrying" to think about what is yet to come.

‘It’s absolutely awful, it feels now like we’re fighting a war - and we’re fighting a war against a virus, and we don’t know what is going to happen next," she said.

"The virus is mutating, there’s different variants. People are becoming sicker, and they’re younger.

"This is the most patients we’ve seen in the hospital, the most we’ve seen in the unit. We did what it said on the tin, we’ve extended critical care beds to what we thought we needed, and now we’re looking like we will need more.

"We’ve not got the results from Christmas or New Year yet - we think that will spike maybe this weekend, or next week.

"So where we thought we’d just have a couple of days which would extend patients numbers to a week, we might have another month where we spike even more."

The trust only has "a couple of weeks" to try and place dozens more beds to deal with the patients expected to need treatment over the coming weeks, Dr Stanley explained.

‘In April and May, if we needed to expand critical care, the rest of the hospital had quite a lot of capacity.

‘If we say we need more beds, there’s nowhere to go. The wards are all full. I think we probably needs another 20 or 30 beds across Lancashire and Cumbria, where are we going to put them?’

The trust is asking people to follow the rules even more strictly to help the NHS deal with the rising pressure expected over the coming weeks.