Find out how busy your hospital is as critical care units fill up

Specialist wards designed to care for seriously ill patients were completely full at a fifth of all hospitals in the UK last week, new NHS data has shown.

Critical care units at 27 of the 140 major NHS trusts had no space at all on January 10 while 12 were full throughout the week.

It appears hospitals in the North East and Yorkshire – which had been among the least affected going into the third lockdown – are now filling up again. Six of the 12 full hospitals were in this region while five were in the South East and Midlands, four were in the South West and London, and two were in the East of England and North West, according to an analysis by MailOnline.

NHS figures show critical care units are 40% fuller this year compared to the second week of January last year. 

However no hospitals had filled their general and acute beds, where less ill patients are cared for. This may be because capacity at most hospitals has increased in response to the pandemic and social distancing measures mean some beds must remain empty. Several hospitals came very close to full capacity.

Meanwhile, 5,513 patients waited longer than an hour to be handed over from ambulance teams to A&E staff at hospitals in England in the week to January 10 – the highest weekly figure so far this winter.

A handover delay does not always mean a patient has waited in the ambulance, they may have been moved into an A&E department but staff were not available to complete the handover.

Hospitals have continued to cancel surgeries in response to the crisis. Yesterday, the University Hospitals Birmingham trust said it would have to suspend kidney transplants for the foreseeable future. 

Figures published yesterday showed a total of 4.46 million people were waiting to start hospital treatment in England at the end of November 2020, the highest number since records began.

Patients were also waiting longer. The number of people having to wait more than 52 weeks to start hospital treatment in England stood at 192,169 in November 2020, the highest number for any calendar month since May 2008.

In November 2019 the number having to wait more than 52 weeks to start treatment stood at just 1,398.

NHS England said that A&E visits were 50% higher in December than during the first Covid peak in April, showing essential services were being maintained.

NHS national medical director Professor Stephen Powis said: ‘Despite there being almost 23,000 people with Covid in England’s hospitals at the end of December – 20% higher than the April peak – 50% more people still came forward for urgent care in our A&Es, twice as many elective treatments were delivered and around three times as many diagnostic checks were carried out, showing that essential non-Covid care was being maintained even as the virus began to get out of control.

‘The NHS has cared for nearly a quarter of a million Covid-positive patients already, who collectively spent more than two million nights in hospital, while also keeping emergency care running.

‘These figures are a stark reminder that the NHS is facing an exceptionally tough challenge, and that while still millions of people are getting care for non-Covid health problems in the NHS in England – indeed for every Covid patient in hospital, the NHS is treating three people for other conditions – there is no doubt that services will continue to be under additional pressure until and unless this virus is under control, which is why it’s so important that everyone practises social distancing and follows national guidance.’

The trusts without any space on their critical care units by January 10 included University Hospitals Birmingham in the Midlands, which had all 147 beds filled, and Dartford and Gravesham NHS Trust in the South East, where patients were occupying all 17 of its beds.

In London, Lewisham and Greenwich hospitals had all 51 of their beds filled, and in the North East and Yorkshire, all 75 beds were in use at Leeds Teaching Hospital.

Hospitals with full critical care wards must either commandeer other parts of the hospital to use for intensive care or send patients to other hospitals nearby. 

In general beds, the Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Trust in the North West was closest to having all of its beds full. There were 339 patients in 347 beds, taking it to 98% capacity.

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