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Covid-19 areas scaled down at hospitals as patient numbers fall

PUBLISHED: 11:30 05 August 2020 | UPDATED: 12:35 06 August 2020

Hospital admissions with Covid-19 at Ipswich, Colchester and West Suffolk hospitals have fallen Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Hospital admissions with Covid-19 at Ipswich, Colchester and West Suffolk hospitals have fallen Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

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Hospital bosses have cut back on the number of ward areas used for coronavirus patients as Covid-19 admissions fell to just three at Ipswich.

Covid-19 ward areas are being scaled down as coronavirus admissions slow. This photo is part of a series taken by NHS worker Colin Gray showing the faces of those fighting coronavirus on Lavenham Ward at Ipswich Hospital. Picture: ESNEFT/COLIN GRAYCovid-19 ward areas are being scaled down as coronavirus admissions slow. This photo is part of a series taken by NHS worker Colin Gray showing the faces of those fighting coronavirus on Lavenham Ward at Ipswich Hospital. Picture: ESNEFT/COLIN GRAY

Figures provided by the region’s NHS trusts indicate that since July 1, 53 Covid-19 positive patients have been admitted across Ipswich, Colchester and West Suffolk hospitals.

At the peak of the pandemic, 112 people needed treatment across Ipswich and Colchester alone, with 33 patients in intensive care units.

The slowing of admissions, which has seen hospital bosses scale down the number of beds used for Covid-19 patients and restart elective operations, comes as infection rates in Suffolk remain low compared with other parts of the country.

MORE: Nearly 700 patients facing year-long waits for surgery after coronavirus

There has been a slight rise in the number of positive tests in recent weeks, as lockdown restrictions have lifted, with Suffolk’s infection rate rising to 3.3 cases per 100,000 people in the week to July 26.

So far, this does not appear to have been reflected in an increase in hospital admissions.

The first signs of a spike have been identified in the Clacton and Harwich areas, which had 10.3 positive tests per 100,000 people in the week to July 26.

Public health chiefs in Essex believe the disease is mostly being contracted by young people.

MORE: Concern over ‘first signs’ of virus spike in Essex

According to the hospitals’ admission figures, which bosses say are subject to change, Colchester has admitted the highest number of Covid-19 patients since the beginning of July, with 32 people admitted to wards.

Just three were admitted at Ipswich, and 18 at West Suffolk.

Despite the drop in patient numbers, particularly at Ipswich Hospital, some beds remain open and ready for Covid-19 positive patients.

Areas used at the height of the pandemic are not being mothballed, NHS bosses said.

MORE: The areas of Suffolk without a single coronavirus death

Just three patients have been admitted to Ipswich Hospital with coronavirus in the past month, according to the NHS Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNJust three patients have been admitted to Ipswich Hospital with coronavirus in the past month, according to the NHS Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

“We have detailed plans in place to be able to flex our beds and staffing as required,” said Neill Moloney, deputy chief executive of the two hospitals.

“This continues as we are seeing a decrease in Covid-19 patients and an increase in patients here for other care and treatment.”

At West Suffolk, coronavirus patients are continuing to be isolated across three ward areas.

Seven Covid-19 wards were prepared at the outset of the pandemic.

Neill Moloney, managing director and deputy chief executive at Ipswich Hospital. Picture: ANDY ABBOTTNeill Moloney, managing director and deputy chief executive at Ipswich Hospital. Picture: ANDY ABBOTT

As of July 27, there were three people who had tested positive in this area, 17 awaiting a swab result, and 11 who tested negative but were showing symptoms. On April 20, around the time of the local peak, there were 32 Covid-19 positive patients and a further 42 waiting for results.

MORE: Revealed – Suffolk had 1,000 more coronavirus cases than reported at height of pandemic

All three hospitals have action plans in place ahead of a second wave, NHS chiefs said.

Helen Beck, chief operating officer at West Suffolk Hospital, wrote in the trust’s latest Covid-19 report that winter and second wave action planning was pressing ahead.

The trust would need to factor in challenges it faced during the first wave, she said, including issues with limited on-site testing, which has sparked delays in patients being discharged and beds being released.

Ms Beck added: “In the event of a second Covid surge the winter period could be one of the most difficult the NHS has faced for many years, if not ever.”

MORE: ‘We’re so grateful’ – More than 500 coronavirus patients recover after treatment at our hospitals

More details on winter planning are expected to be published by both trusts in the coming weeks.

To date, an estimated 1,186 people have been admitted across all three hospitals with the virus and nearly 800 discharged.

There have been 434 deaths as of 4pm on August 3, according to official NHS England data.


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