Survival rate of Covid-19 patients in intensive care has improved

17 October 2020, 08:18 | Updated: 17 October 2020, 10:00

File photo: Police waves to an ambulance outside St Thomas' Hospital
File photo: Police waves to an ambulance outside St Thomas' Hospital. Picture: PA

By Megan White

Coronavirus patients in critical care have a better chance of surviving now than when the pandemic started in the UK, new figures indicate.

The Intensive Care National Audit and Research Centre (ICNARC) has issued a report on Covid-19 in critical care for England, Wales and Northern Ireland, which splits patients into those admitted to intensive care up to August 31 and those admitted from September 1.

The data shows that on average 39% of critical care coronavirus patients died up until the end of August, with just less than 12% dying since.

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However, the Dean of the Faculty of Intensive Care Medicine, Dr Alison Pittard, said the difference could be attributed to an insufficient amount of time having passed to accurately assess the outcomes of the later data set's patients, many of whom may still be in hospital.

It comes as medics warn they are extremely worried about how the next few weeks will look in hospitals as the number of cases continues to rise across the UK.

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Dr Indeewar Kapila, a consultant in anaesthesia and intensive care medicine in Manchester, said intensive care units in the North West were getting busier and staff were bracing themselves for a difficult second wave.

Asked whether he is worried about where hospitals in the North West will be in three or four weeks time, Dr Kapila said: "We're extremely worried.

"I think if if the current situation continues, if we haven't got some additional measures in place, then we are very concerned that in three or four weeks, perhaps even less than that, we will start seeing a rapid rise in admissions."

Dr Kapila, who is chairman of the British Medical Association's North West Regional Consultant Committee, said he had a strong message for the public.

"My message to the public would be to continue to treat this virus with respect and take all the measures that have been suggested by the Government, by Public Health England, by the local hospitals, the local community, to ensure that they're protecting themselves as much as possible.

"I appreciate it's very difficult to continue to live in the state that we're in currently, which is having a huge impact on the population, economically, mentally and physically, but we have to continue to protect ourselves as much as possible, otherwise we may be facing a similar situation to the first phase."

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The consultant said the first wave of the pandemic had had a "significant" impact on staff.

"From a medical perspective, doctors and nursing staff were physically and mentally drained after the first wave," he said.

"It had a huge impact on staff, there were a lot of people who went off sick because of Covid infection and other people have to take time off to look after family members.

"There's certainly significant apprehension as the second wave starts picking up and there's no doubt that a lot of staff are braced for the fact that they might have to go through a similar experience again.

"We're very much hoping that that isn't the case, and we've certainly learned a few lessons from the first wave, but as professionals we just have to get on and provide the best care we can for our patients."

He said medics were seeing patients in their 60s coming into hospital as well as older people but added there were younger patients as well.

"At the moment it's hard to establish a clear pattern because the wave is on the upward slope.

"But I think in the next couple of weeks, we should start to get a better idea of the type of patient that we might be seeing."

On his own intensive care wards, Dr Kapila said there is still capacity to treat patient but admissions are expected to grow.

"It is getting busier, there's no doubt that hospitals themselves are very busy with lots of patients coming into the hospital with either suspected or confirmed Covid infection," he said.

"At the moment, intensive care admissions are steady but it's only a matter of time, in the next week or so, that we might start seeing a rapid rise in admissions.

"Given what the R value is in the North West, I think we, unless we see a dramatic change in the strategy, there's a strong possibility we're going to start seeing a significant rise in admissions to intensive care."

Asked if Greater Manchester should go into Tier 3, Dr Kapila said it was a difficult and emotive question to answer.

"We certainly need to take more stringent measures to try to protect the population, the local population in particular," he said.

"I've certainly been hearing of versions of either Tier 3 or a circuit breaker, that's certainly what the national advisers are saying that we should perhaps be thinking about."

He said Tier 3 restrictions had an economic impact on local populations but purely from an infection point of view, "we definitely need a stronger measure in place as soon as possible".

He added that a "strong, short and sharp approach to this would do something to bring the numbers down".

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