COVID-19 inpatient numbers approach new high in Devon

Published: 17 March 2022

Ian CurrieThe number of people in hospital with COVID-19 in Devon has risen to 292, with a further 37 patients awaiting test results; double the figure from a fortnight ago and higher than at any other point in the pandemic. 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.

Four COVID-19 patients are currently in intensive care, far fewer than previously, thanks to the success of the incredible COVID-19 vaccine programme. However, many people have tested positive for COVID-19 while in hospital for other conditions, this has led to patients who are already vulnerable, becoming more unwell and impacted on the ability to admit other patients.

Ian Currie, Medical Director, Torbay and South Devon NHS 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-19 are in hospital for other conditions and are asymptomatic or experiencing mild symptoms the impact that the presence of COVID-19 has in our hospitals is really significant.

“Under current infection prevention and control guidelines, one patient testing positive for COVID-19 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.”

NHS Devon Clinical Commissioning Group Medical Director, Dr Paul Johnson said, “These incredibly high numbers of patients with COVID-19 has a huge impact on the NHS ability to carry out planned care for patients who have already had long waits due to the pandemic.

“Our staff are working incredibly hard and doing everything they can to prevent COVID-19 from spreading within hospitals, but it is essential that people support us. Please do not come in to visit if you feel unwell or have Covid and you must still wear a face covering, unless you are exempt.”

Recorded Covid case rates in Devon, Plymouth and Torbay are around 750 per 100,000, well above the England average of 542 per 100,000. This has led to a sharp increase in the number of staff absence. Almost 1200 NHS staff are currently off work due to COVID-19.

Devon’s hospitals are not alone in experiencing huge pressure from outbreaks and staff absences. The situation is mirrored across the entire health and care system. 183 care services, such as care homes and other social care providers currently have Covid outbreaks. This also adds to the complexity of discharging patients from hospital who need onward care and means people stay in hospital for longer than needed.