300 battling Covid in hospital as cases remain above spring peak 

There is concern that if Covid-19 rates continue to rise at the rate that they are, hospitals will become overwhelmed again.

There is concern that if Covid-19 rates continue to rise at the rate that they are, hospitals will become overwhelmed again. (stock image) - Credit: Peter Byrne / PA

Hundreds of people are continuing to fight coronavirus in the region’s hospitals, although admissions for the disease are showing signs of slowing. 

Figures out on Thursday reveal Ipswich and Colchester hospitals had 251 Covid patients in beds on Tuesday, down from 337 a week ago on February 2. 

West Suffolk had 47 patients, down from 91 last week, bringing the total fighting Covid at all three main hospitals to 298. 

That is down from a peak this wave of 675 patients on January 19, but is higher than during the spring peak where numbers reached 185 in April. 

Covid patients accounted for 19% of the total number of beds operated by Ipswich and Colchester hospitals on February 9, down from a peak of 46% on January 19.  

At West Suffolk, virus patients are now taking up 9% of all beds, which is a fall from a third occupied on January 19. 

Pressure on critical care has also eased slightly for the first time in this coronavirus wave, with the percentage of beds occupied across Ipswich and Colchester falling from 100% on January 31 to 94% on February 7. 

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The number of beds open to critical care patients also reduced in this period, falling from 47 on January 31 to 44 on February 7.

Earlier this year, the ICU’s capacity was doubled from the usual 25 beds operating most winters to a peak of 50 in use on January 24. 

A total of 23 patients were on mechanical ventilator beds at Ipswich and Colchester as of Tuesday. 

At West Suffolk, the number of critical care patients fell from 18 on January 31 to 15 on February 7, meaning the unit is 75% full.

However, the hospital typically only has nine critical care beds during winter and therefore, with 20 beds in total, it is continuing to operate at double its usual capacity. Five patients were on ventilators on February 9. 

Dr Stephen Dunn, chief executive of West Suffolk Hospital, said it remains busy and that they have just opened a new £27m area within A&E to rapidly assess and treat Covid alongside other infectious diseases. 

Stephen Dunn

Dr Steve Dunn, chief executive of West Suffolk Hospital - Credit: Archant

"It is vital that our community continues to do everything possible to keep reducing the number of new infections by following Hands, Face, Space and staying at home as much as possible, even after they have received the vaccine,” he added. 

The official numbers show us the first signs of a decline as vaccinations progress and lockdown continues – but experts have warned it could still be a few weeks before the numbers ease. 

Nationally, 22,067 hospital beds were occupied by Covid patients on Tuesday, down from 27,937 the previous week. 

The life-saving Covid vaccine, of which one in four adults in Suffolk and north east Essex have received their first dose, can take up to three weeks to give people protection. 

It means there is likely to be a delay before an impact on hospital admissions and case numbers will be visible.

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