Devon NHS Trust declares two critical incidents as Covid admissions double

A hospital in Devon has declared a second critical incident following extreme pressures, as Covid-19 admissions in the region double, The Independent has learnt.

Rebecca Thomas

North Devon Healthcare Trust declared a critical incident on Monday, after it declared another earlier this month it has confirmed.

The news comes as the number of people with Covid-19 across two hospitals in Devon has doubled in just two weeks.

As of Thursday, there were 292 Covid positive patients in across hospitals in Devon, with a further 37 awaiting test results.

According to a statement from healthcare leaders in Devon, Plymouth and Torbay, as of Thursday there were almost 1,200 NHS staff off work due to Covid.

Meanwhile 183 care services, such as care homes and other social care providers, in the area have reported Covid outbreaks, making it harder to discharge patients, the leaders said.

NHS data published on Thursday showed there were 213 patients across three hospitals in Devon, waiting to be discharged.

Covid-19 infections are also continuing to rise across most of the UK, with levels in Scotland hitting another record high, new figures show.

Heather Brazier, for North Devon Healthcare Trust director of operations said in a statement to The Independent: “On Monday 14 March we declared an internal critical incident due to insufficient bed capacity to admit emergency admissions.

“There continue to be significant bed pressures at North Devon District Hospital and South Molton Community Hospital. This is due to challenges with discharging patients from hospital, particularly those with ongoing care needs, alongside sustained high levels of urgent care demand. Our emergency department is very busy and people attending the ED are experiencing long wait times.”

“While things remain challenging, we ask that our community do what they can to help their local NHS, including choosing the right healthcare services for their needs. If people need urgent care please call 111 and please support any loved ones you have at the hospital to get ready to go home as soon as they are able to leave hospital.”

The news comes as Covid-19 admissions surge across the country and infections have led staff absences to increase again, with more than 17,000 off with Covid related illness nationally.

In England, 2.7 million people had Covid this week, up to 12 March, compared to 2.1 million people in the week up to 5 March, according to the Office for National Statistics. In Wales, the estimate is up from 97,900 people, or one in 30, to 125,400 people, or one in 25.

In Scotland infection levels have increased for seven weeks in a row and have hit a new record high with 376,300 last week. The ONS described the trend in Northern Ireland as “uncertain”, with 130,600 people likely to have had Covid-19 last week.

In a statement, on behalf of hospitals across Devon on Thursday leaders said: “High Covid-19 numbers are having a very significant impact across Devon’s health and care system.”

“The last time Covid-19 numbers were this high was in January 2021, before most people had the benefit of Covid-19 vaccines.”

It added said many people have tested positive for Covid while in hospital which has led to patients who are already vulnerable, becoming more unwell and impacted on the ability to admit other patients.

Ian Currie, medical director for Torbay and South Devon Foundation Trust said: “We currently have more patients with COVID-19 in our hospitals than almost any time during the pandemic. While it is encouraging that the majority of our patients who have tested positive for Covid are in hospital for other conditions and are asymptomatic or experiencing mild symptoms the impact that the presence of Covid has in our hospitals is really significant.”

“Under current infection prevention and control guidelines, one patient testing positive for Covid can result in the closure of the whole ward, meaning that beds are unavailable for emergency admissions and for planned operations. This means people waiting longer for treatment in the community and operations being cancelled or postponed and long waits in Emergency Departments for people needing a hospital bed.”

Professor Tim Spector, lead scientist on the ZOE Covid study, warned: “Covid cases are now at the highest levels the ZOE COVID study has ever recorded. Even more concerning is the rise in new cases in people aged over 75. This vulnerable group have had low case numbers for months.

“We will need to wait a few weeks to see the full impact on increased hospitalisation but numbers have already started to rise.”