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Devon hospitals coping with covid pressure

Sunday, January 24th, 2021 9:07am

By Daniel Clark, local democracy reporter

NHS Nightingale Exeter

Troops to help at NHS Nightingale Exeter

Pressures in Devon hospitals as a result of rising number of coronavirus cases are not as bad as forecast - but troops are to be brought in to help with logistics at the NHS Nightingale Exeter hospital at Sowton.

Devon County Council’s health and wellbeing board has heard that while there were more patients in hospital in the county than during the first peak, they have the capacity to manage demand and it is not impacting on urgent non-covid care.

While there is pressure in the system, Devon hospitals are able to take in patients from elsewhere in the south west and the south east.

Dr Paul Johnson, clinical chair of the Devon Clinical Commissioning Group, said that if their modelling is correct, then the next week should see the peak of admissions and occupancy in hospital before plateauing and dropping, and if so, Devon will have capacity to care for those who need it.

In two of Devon’s four hospitals, plus NHS Nightingale Exeter, patients who had received a positive covid test was up in the week to Tuesday 19 January.

The number of covid patients in Derriford rose from 72 to 110. Torbay Hospital was up 25 to 34, and numbers at the Nightingale Exeter rose from 34 to 44.

Covid patients at North Devon District Hospital dropped from nine to seven,  and from 99 to 95 at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital.

As of Tuesday there were eight patients in mechanical ventilation beds in Exeter, three in Torbay and 14 at Derriford.

The increase in admissions reflects the rise in cases across the county, but also patients from elsewhere being transferred into the region.

Derriford Hospital is one of the four main hospitals currently at the peak of covid since the beginning of the pandemic. Torbay and Exeter are not far below the peak of the ‘second wave’ in November, but North Devon is at a quarter of the occupancy from its peak.

Dr Johnson said: “In general we are seeing more people in hospital than the previous peaks and around 10 per cent are needing intensive care, around the same as first peak, and we are using the Nightingale to utilise extra bed capacity.

“It does mean that as things stand, we have the capacity to manage the number of cases we are getting, and if the modelling is right, then over next couple of weeks we should see the peak and then plateau and drop, then we should have the capacity to care for those in hospital

“One impact of that though is that all hospitals are operating at ‘green surge’, so things that can be deferred safely like routine operations are so that staff and spaces can be used to provide some more critical care and general medical beds during this time. But it is not impacting on those urgent non-Covid things we need to be doing."

Suzanne Tracey, chief executive of the RD&E, said: "The key issue for us, not surprisingly, is the levels of staffing that we have available to us. As prevalence increased in population, it has had a knock-on effect on staff, although that has improved post-Christmas.

“While it has been pressurised, we are doing better than our forecast for this period, but we have to remember that different to the first wave when we were almost solely focused on responded to the xovid challenge.

“We are balancing dealing with covid and non-covid emergencies and the patients who need urgent care for life threatening illnesses like cancer treatment. Balancing it is putting great pressure in the system but where there is availability, we are trying to use it.”

She added that military personnel will be deployed to Exeter’s Nightingale hospital to help with rising covid-19 cases.

The troops will help the 116-bed emergency facility to expand the number of open wards and care for patients, and that with the extra support they will be providing, capacity for care will rise from the current levels to enable up to 70 or 80 patients to be looked after at the Nightingale.


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