Hospital chief warns intensive care is 'the worst I've ever seen'

Nick Hulme, chief executive of the East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Ipswich and Colchester...

Nick Hulme, chief executive of the East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Ipswich and Colchester hospitals - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

While coronavirus cases have started to fall in the region, the chief of Ipswich and Colchester hospitals has cautioned people to stick to lockdown rules as the NHS continues to face severe pressures.

Nick Hulme, chief executive of the East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust, warned in late December that intensive care units at both sites were full and said yesterday that the facilities have been forced to expand by up to 230% since the beginning of the second wave.

"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.

"The ITU is double the size it was and twice as full in a sense — we have up to 230% of the base number of beds we had at the beginning of the second wave."

Though the national lockdown has begun to work and case rates are in decline across the region, the relief that will bring to healthcare services takes a long time to materialise, in the same way rising rates do.

The intensive care units at Ipswich and Colchester hospitals have been full since before New Year due to the pressure from...

The intensive care units at Ipswich and Colchester hospitals have been full since before New Year due to the pressure from coronavirus - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

Mr Hulme explained that a reduction in cases in the community can take more than a month to be of any help in the hospitals.

Roughly two weeks after cases change in the community will there be an impact on A&E departments, then another two weeks later that will be seen in the ITU departments, before finally having an impact on the death rates in another two weeks.

"The benefit of hindsight shows us the damage that has been done when we have come out of lockdown too quickly in the past," he added.

Though cases in the region are falling, this will not ease the pressure on hospitals for some time

Though cases in the region are falling, this will not ease the pressure on hospitals for some time - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

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"This has been a terrible time for so many people and every aspect of our lives has been turned upside down, but the only way out of this is to stay at home.

"I know the temptation to leave home as the numbers go down is there, but now is the time to double our resolve and really stick with it."

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