How full are our hospitals compared to previous winters?

No new coronavirus deaths have been reported at Norfolk's three main hospitals. Picture: Archant

No new coronavirus deaths have been reported at Norfolk's three main hospitals. Picture: Archant - Credit: Archant

The number of people in critical care beds in Norfolk hospitals is up 88pc compared to last winter, revealing how much more pressure the NHS is under this year.

Every winter, weekly reports are released by each hospital showing the amount of beds taken up by patients as they battle the annual winter crisis.

But this year, the situation has been far made worse by the pandemic, with reports of hundreds of patients waiting for more than 30 minutes to be unloaded from ambulances outside hospitals.

At the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH), plans to add up to 80 intensive care beds were put into action this week to help staff cope with the pressure.

The Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital. Picture: Nick Butcher

The Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital. Picture: Nick Butcher - Credit: Nick Butcher

The latest data shows there were 60 adult critical care beds occupied on January 3 this year in Norfolk– a rise of 88pc from the 32 on the same day last year.

At no point between December 3 and January 3 in the previous four winters have there been as many adult critical care patients at one time in Norfolk.

The previous highest figure was 46 on January 3, 2019. This winter, there have been 46 or more patients in critical care beds on 18 separate days in the same time period.

Looking at the county's three hospitals in isolation, the NNUH’s 36 patients in critical care beds on January 3 was 138pc higher than the same day last winter, and 47pc higher than at any point in the last four winters.

At the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn 11 patients were in critical care beds on January 3, up two from the same time last winter. The most patients recorded on critical care beds in the last four winters at the hospital was 14, and this was equalled on December 28 this winter.

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In the last four winters the most patients on critical care beds in the James Paget University Hospital (JPUH) in Gorleston on any given day has been 14, but those numbers have not been reached yet this year. On January 3 there were 11 patients in critical care beds, compared to seven last year.

Meanwhile, 26 critical capacity beds were occupied at the West Suffolk NHS Trust on January 3 this year - triple the 7 occupied on the same day last winter.

What about the rest of the hospital?

Across Norfolk the number of people occupying general and acute beds in hospitals is relatively similar to previous years, according to the data.

On January 3 there were 1,716 people in acute and general beds across Norfolk’s three hospitals, slightly lower than in the winter of 2017-18 and slightly higher than last winter.

But the figures vary dramatically from hospital to hospital.

At the NNUH the number of people taking up acute and general beds is almost double the figure seen over the last four winters.

On January 3, there were 804 people in such beds at the NNUH, compared to 405 last winter. The highest figure on that date in the last four winters was 448 in 2017-18.

Meanwhile the numbers of people taking up acute and general beds is down by half at the QEH, where 456 such beds were occupied on January 3 compared to 877 on the same day last winter. This is after many surgeries have been cancelled.

At the JPUH the number of people in acute or general beds was 456 on January 3, compared to 413 on the same day last winter. The last time number was as high at the JPUH on January 3 was in the winter of 2017-18 when it was 453.

In West Suffolk, the number of general and acute beds occupied in down 12pc compared to the same day time winter, with 370 beds occupied on January 3.

'Worst weeks'

It comes as England's chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty warned on Monday that the next few weeks will be "worst weeks of the pandemic".

Chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty Picture: Leon Neal/PA Wire

Chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty Picture: Leon Neal/PA Wire - Credit: PA

Prof Whitty told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "We got to be very clear that we are now at the worst point of this epidemic for the UK.
"The new variant undoubtedly makes every situation slightly more dangerous than it was in the previous situation because the current variant is transmitted exactly the same way, but the probability of transmission with any interaction has now gone up with this new variant."

He urged the public to "stay at home unless you absolutely have to".


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