Belfast axes inpatient operations as UK hospitals pushed to the brink
Written by on 7 January 2021
Belfast’s health trust has cancelled all planned inpatient operations this week as hospital staff across the UK say they are being stretched to their limits.
As of 4 January, there were 30,451 people in UK hospitals with coronavirus, much higher than the 12 April peak of 21,684.
Health chiefs are urging everyone to listen to the stay at home message as the number of people needing hospital treatment looks set to grow.
The chief executive of NHS Providers, Chris Hopson, tweeted that it was “very worrying” that the number of people in England’s hospital beds “continues to rise inexorably”.
He said that while there had been a slowdown in London and the South East, “infection rates (are) rising very rapidly in Midlands, North West & South West: +67%, +69% and +45% respectively in a week”.
Mr Hopson told the BBC that the Exeter and Manchester Nightingale hospitals were currently being used, but are the “last-resort insurance policy” as they are not “purpose-built for health and care” and require the diversion of staff.
It was reported on Thursday that another 1,410 people had tested positive in Northern Ireland, with 17 more deaths.
Hospital occupancy across Northern Ireland was put at 103%.
There are a total of 599 COVID-confirmed inpatients, 44 of whom are in intensive care.
The country is in a six-week lockdown after a rapid rise in cases since December.
Health minister Robin Swann said: “This is a time to hunker down and weather the crisis.”
The Belfast health trust said: “We are fully aware of the level of anxiety and concern COVID-19 has caused our service users since March 2020 and we apologise for the distress these further steps will cause.
“We will rearrange this surgery as soon as possible and we will do everything we can to ensure continuity of care throughout this challenging time.
“We are also actively considering moving many outpatient appointments to virtual appointments in order to reduce footfall on our sites and to encourage the public to stay home whenever possible.”
In Scotland, there are 1,467 people in hospital confirmed to have COVID-19, up 83 from 1,384 in 24 hours.
Of these patients, 100 are in intensive care – up by five on the previous day.
In England, the PA news agency has spoken to staff at St George’s Hospital in south London, where the trust has had to vastly expand intensive care capacity and move under-qualified staff to high dependency roles.
Medical registrar Omome Etomi said it was impossible to predict the profile of patients brought in for care – and whether they would survive.
Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine rolled out to GPs
The 28-year-old said: “We are seeing patients across the spectrum, from their 20s right up to people in their 80s and 90s.
“It’s so unpredictable – I can’t tell you who’s going to be unwell and not, who’s going to improve and go home and who’s going to have a longer stay in ITU (intensive care or high dependency).
“I have admitted patients to the intensive care unit in their 20s and 30s, people who have no pre-existing conditions.
“There’s almost no pattern to it – we just can’t say.”
GPs in England have now begun the mass rollout of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine as the government commits to offering a vaccine to more than 13 million people in the top four priority groups by mid-February.