Hospital raises concerns over critical care unit being overwhelmed

The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Kings LynnThe Chief Executive of the QEH Caroline Shaw

Caroline Shaw, chief executive of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn - Credit: Sonya Duncan

A Norfolk hospital boss has said the next few weeks could be its "most challenging yet" of the coronavirus pandemic with more than half of beds expected to be occupied by Covid-19 patients.

Caroline Shaw, chief executive of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, in King's Lynn, said there had been challenges due to a sharp rise in Covid cases affecting staff in a report to the hospital's board.

As of January 26, there were 182 patients with a positive Covid-19 result at the QEH.

The trust opened an additional 62 inpatient beds in preparation for the winter period, but in papers to the hospital's board of directors, it has reported that a lack of resources could impact its critical care provision.

The papers said: "There is a risk that the critical care unit will not be able to facilitate the expected amount of COVID-19 patients needing ventilation in the critical care area.

"This will result in non-ITU trained staff being asked to manage these patients, and at a much higher staffing ratio than the national standard.

"The patients will need to be managed in different areas other then critical care which will have an impact of elective activity.

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"There is also a risk that there will not be enough consumables to manage the patients safely and as a result, there is a risk that the staff will become infected themselves."

The hospital's board will meet on Tuesday.

In her report, Mrs Shaw said: "Despite the positive signs of a consistent reduction in Covid-19 patients over the last week, we remain cautious and fully focused, with a Gold and Silver command structure and response in place. 

"Our modelling predicts that the next few weeks could be our most challenging yet and when our capacity is likely to be at its most stretched, with over half of our beds expected to be occupied by Covid-19 patients."

Staff have treated 1,244 Covid-19 positive patients, of which 669 have been discharged home.

Since the start of the pandemic, 372 patients have died at the hospital.

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