Liverpool Covid admissions will ‘devastate’ other hospital care

Non-urgent treatment at risk unless infection and admission rates fall, top doctor says

Staff transporting a patient at the Royal Liverpool hospital during the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic.

Staff transporting a patient at the Royal Liverpool hospital during the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic.
Photograph: Paul Ellis/AFP via Getty Images

The large number of Covid-19 patients being admitted to hospitals at the centre of the second wave will “devastate” care for people with other illnesses, a top doctor has said.

Dr Tristan Cope said Liverpool’s acute hospitals would not be able to continue providing normal care because of the high number of people being treated for serious Covid symptoms.

Unless the surge in coronavirus admissions slowed down it would “have a devastating effect on planned care, such as operations”, he said.

Cope is the medical director of Liverpool university hospitals NHS trust, where almost all critical care beds are already full because the city’s high infection rate has placed intense pressure on the trust’s three hospitals: the Royal Liverpool, Broadgreen and Aintree.

“Liverpool hospitals are under enormous pressure with admissions of sick Covid patients. We are used to pressure, but this is over and above that,” Cope tweeted on Wednesday night.

“We have the highest number of Covid patients in the UK, nearly as many now as at the peak of the first wave. We also have more Covid patients in ICU [intensive care units] than any other trust in the UK.”

The trust has expanded its supply of critical care and specialist respiratory beds to help it manage the large number of Covid arrivals, many of whom have serious breathing problems.

However, Cope said: “If we don’t reduce the rate of infection in the community and Covid admission rates continue to rise, it will inevitably have a massive effect on non-urgent care.

“If we don’t get control of [the] spread of the virus in the community and admissions continue at the current rate, our hospitals will not be able to cope. This will have a devastating effect on planned care, such as operations.”

Diagnosis and treatment of cancer, including surgery, could be among the services at risk, he said in a separate tweet to Jeremy Hunt, the chair of the health select committee.

NHS England has told all hospitals to continue to provide non-Covid care during the second wave, though some trusts believe this will prove increasingly difficult in the coming weeks.

Earlier this week, the Guardian reported on a leaked memo from the trust’s chief executive which said it was already scaling back planned, non-urgent operations because of the pressure it was under.

Separately, the head of a group of NHS hospitals in the Midlands said on Wednesday that the second wave would be “10 times harder” than the first.

“Wave one was the easy part of the job. Wave two is 10 times harder because you’ve got staff exhaustion, you’ve got elective recovery, you’ve got winter, and you’ve got Covid all happening at the same time,” said Simon Weldon, the chief executive of the Northampton and Kettering group of hospitals, at a summit organised by the Health Service Journal.