Plymouth hospital declares critical incident over bed shortages

A Plymouth hospital has declared a critical incident over bed shortages as its emergency department becomes overrun by coronavirus cases. 

A spokesperson for University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust, which runs Derriford Hospital near Devon, said that the service is experiencing its highest rate of Covid-19 occupancy of the virus’s third wave.

The critical incident declaration means that all hospital departments must focus on tackling the problem. Already, bed capacity has been reconfigured to try to meet the demand of patients with and without Covid-19.

The hospital has also cancelled routine surgery appointments and temporarily banned visitors to try to prevent the virus being spread.

Jo Beer, Chief Operating Officer at UHP, said: “The incident was declared due to high bed occupancy and a sustained high level of emergency department attendance converting into an above-average level of admission.

“We are experiencing our highest level of Covid occupancy of the third wave and expect this to increase further – as a result we have reconfigured our bed capacity to manage both Covid and non-Covid capacity, but this needs continual review.”

Paul McArdle, Deputy Medical Director at UHP, said that the increase in Covid-19 hospitalisations reflects a “pattern that we’re seeing right across the country”, but added that it has been “compounded by a recent surge in Covid prevalence in our community”.

In a video message shared by UHP, he said: “We’d just like to inform patients that we’re currently experiencing high levels of attendance in our Emergency Department and in association with that, quite long waits.”

“For instance, last night we had I think about 130 patients present in our Emergency Department at 11 o’clock in the evening when we’d expect things to be a lot quieter.”

Covid-19 case rates are currently rising in all English regions except London and Yorkshire & the Humber, according to Public Health England.

Music festivals such as Boardmasters Festival in Cornwall and Latitude Festival in Suffolk have recently been blamed for coronavirus outbreaks.