Critical care full and nearly 700 patients fighting Covid in hospital

Ten more deaths have been reported across Suffolk Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Ten more deaths have been reported across Suffolk Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Archant

The number of patients being treated for coronavirus at two of the region’s major hospitals has surged to above 500 – with more people battling the illness in beds than ever before. 

Ipswich and Colchester hospitals had 550 Covid patients in beds on Monday, January 18, the highest number since the pandemic began, with levels falling slightly the following day to 526. 

That is up from 462 beds occupied by coronavirus patients the previous week, on January 13. 

Across all three main hospitals, including West Suffolk, there were 675 Covid patients in beds as of January 19. 

It comes as the East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust, which runs both hospitals, reached a tragic milestone on Friday, recording more than 800 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic and over 100 in the past week alone. 

Chief executive Nick Hulme warned on Thursday that intensive care is the “worst he has ever seen it”.  

"The NHS is still under significant pressure — the worst I've seen in my lifetime," he said.  

"We don't feel the impact of falling cases for weeks and while there will be a reduction of pressure as the vaccine gets into the community, that won't be for several weeks.” 

Nick Hulme, chief executive of the East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust

Nick Hulme, chief executive of the East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust, confirmed intensive care units are full at both hospitals - Credit: Archant

Critical care capacity has doubled from the usual 25 beds across both hospitals with 49 in use on January 17. On that day, every single critical care bed was occupied. 

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Covid patients accounted for 46% of the total number of beds operated by Ipswich and Colchester hospitals as of January 19. Those levels are among the highest in England. 

There is a slight glimmer of hope in West Suffolk, where the number of beds occupied by Covid patients fell from 193 to 149 as of January 19. That accounts for a third of all beds. 

Yet critical care beds are still 90% full, with 18 out of 20 intensive care beds in use at the Bury St Edmunds based hospital as of January 17. 

Our maps below highlight the pressure the virus is putting on hospitals across the region, with experts predicting it will still be a few weeks before numbers ease. 

At the James Paget University Hospital, which admits some patients from north Suffolk, the number of Covid patients dropped from 146 to 126 last week.

But despite the fall, the hospital is operating at close to capacity, with 96% of all beds occupied. 

Meanwhile the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust – the region’s mental health trust – has reported 45 Covid patients in beds, up from the 34 reported last week. 

Nationally, 77,606 hospital beds are occupied, down from 81,481 last week, and 34,015 are taken up by virus sufferers.  

But the number of intensive care beds occupied by Covid patients is still rising. In all, 3,603 are in intensive care, compared to 3,175 the previous week. 

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