Liverpool’s biggest hospitals are only 10 per cent closer to capacity than normal for October, official data has revealed.
The city’s NHS critical care beds are usually 85 per cent full at this time of year, with 51 out of 60 beds occupied across three hospitals, according to NHS England data from the past six years.
But councillor Paul Brant has warned Liverpool’s intensive care units are already at 95 per cent capacity, sparking fears of an impending crisis. One senior doctor has claimed only 58 out of 60 beds are currently full, with half thought to be filled by coronavirus patients.
Professor Callum Semple, a doctor in the city and academic at Liverpool University, said in a video released by the council 90 per cent of critical-care beds in the city are full. He warned it was likely capacity would be exceeded in a week.
NHS England data also shows the national capacity of critical care beds is around 80 per cent and has been for several years. There are around 4,000 intensive care beds across the country, health chiefs say.
University Liverpool Hospitals Trust, which runs four hospitals in the city, has yet to reveal exactly how many intensive care beds it has available for the winter. But one of the hospitals it runs says it has 70 beds geared up with breathing apparatus to help Covid-19 patients, meaning the true number could be much higher than last winter.
It is thought this number has risen after Health Secretary Matt Hancock pledged to create thousands more beds to treat critically-ill patients in the wake of Britain’s first wave, amid fears hospitals could be overwhelmed by future waves.
NHS data reveals the units are normally 85 per cent occupied at this time of year. They have had 60 critical-care beds available in the city since 2014
Hospitalisations across the country have been rising since the end of August, yesterday reaching levels higher than the start of June
Percentage of critical-care bed capacity used
There are at least 60 critical-care beds across the Aintree University Hospital, Royal Liverpool University Hospital and Broadgreen Hospital in Liverpool.
Below is the proportion of these beds occupied in October over the last ten years:
October 2010: 90 per cent
October 2011: 91 per cent
October 2012: 80 per cent
October 2013: 81 per cent
October 2014: 88 per cent
October 2015: 86 per cent
October 2016: 93 per cent
October 2017: 82 per cent
October 2018: 91 per cent
October 2019: 86 per cent
October 2020: 95 per cent*
Professor Semple said in a video statement: ‘We have got over 300 patients in beds and our intensive care capacity is currently running at 90 per cent.
‘At this rate we are looking at exceeding healthcare capacity in the next week or so,’ he said.
Critical-care beds in Liverpool hospitals were at least 80 per cent full in the last week of October 2012, figures published by NHS England reveal.
In October last year the units were 86 per cent full, with 51 out of 59 beds occupied by patients.
And in 2018 as many as 88 per cent of beds were full at this time of year, with 52 out of 59 occupied.
The most critical-care beds were occupied in October 2016, when the unit was at 93 per cent capacity with 53 of 58 beds in use.
The beds are spread between Aintree University Hospital, Royal Liverpool University Hospital and Broadgreen Hospital.
Aintree University’s critical-care unit tweeted today it had 30 beds with CPAP machines to help patients breathe normally, and 40 beds with ventilators.
However, it is not clear exactly how many of these would be classed as a ‘critical care bed’ to support patients with organ failure, or if they are just beds with hooked up ventilators.
A senior doctor told the Financial Times: ‘We’ve got plenty of ventilators but we don’t have the beds. There’s a feeling of dread at the moment.’
Mr Brant warned critical care beds are ‘filling up very fast’ on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, adding: ‘It has become clear that the intensity of the demand on hospital services here in Liverpool is crowding out anything other than dealing with Covid-19.’
Liverpool University Hospital’s Trust chief executive Steve Warburton told staff in a memo on Monday that they had reached a ‘critical point’.
He said planned procedures were already been scaled back, adding they were ‘taking a phased approach to reducing our elective programme, while exploring options with other providers to maintain some of this work in alternative locations’.
He added: ‘We will continue to prioritize surgery based on clinical need, with a view to maintaining urgent and cancer surgery where possible.
‘We will continue to maintain access to outpatient appointments wherever possible, and maintain diagnostic activity.’
GPs in Liverpool have also been warned that the city’s two biggest hospitals are ‘full’ and they should consider ‘stepping up care at home’ for patients to avoid admissions, reports the Financial Times.
In a letter Fiona Lemmens, who chairs Liverpool’s clinical commissioning group, said the situation was ‘very concerning’.
‘Both (Aintree University Hospital and The Royal Liverpool University Hospital) are now full and the system is putting in place significant mutual aid to help continue urgent elective and cancer work so you may hear of your patients being transferred to other hospitals for their surgery,’ she warned.
They also revealed spiralling hospitalisations with the virus in the North West and the North East and Yorkshire
Slides shown by Boris Johnson on Monday as he announced the three tier lockdown system reveal that hospital admissions are surging across the North West in all age groups
Over 85s are suffering the highest rate of hospital admissions with Covid-19, this graph shows, followed by those aged 75 to 84, and those aged 65 to 74
Covid-19 patients are filling up beds at Royal Liverpool University Hospital (pictured)
All the indicators ‘are that the situation is going to get worse over the next two to three weeks as our current high community transmission rates convert into hospital admissions.’
She added they can ‘expect to see growing demand for hospital and (intensive treatment unit) beds).’
There are currently 277 patients with coronavirus in Liverpool’s hospitals. At the peak of the first wave in April there were 400 Covid-19 patients in the city’s hospitals.
Government data for the number of Covid-19 patients on ventilators in the North West shows there were 140 on October 13, a 30 per cent rise on the same time last week.
The figures cannot be broken down by cities or towns, as the Government does not publish data at this level.
There is no Nightingale Hospital in Liverpool to help hospitals cope with increased demand, but there is one with 750 beds in neighbouring Manchester.