Covid patients at Preston and Chorley hospitals triple in a week
The number of patients with Covid in Central Lancashire’s hospitals has risen to its highest level in nearly four months - and around a third of them are thought to have caught it after being admitted.
According to data from the trust that runs the Royal Preston and Chorley and South Ribble Hospital - included in a memo to staff, which has been seen by the Lancashire Post - there were 61 Covid-positive patients being cared for by the organisation on 17th June. That is the highest tally since 25th February - although still far short of the pandemic peak of 193 in mid-December.
Nevertheless, the total number of Covid patients at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (LTH) has more than trebled in the last week alone - and is up from just four at the start of the month. Almost all of the individuals currently being treated have contracted the more transmissible Delta variant that originated in India.
Ten of the overall total were in critical care as of last Thursday - compared to just two a week earlier - while three required “respiratory high care”, such as high-flow oxygen and non-invasive ventilation. The latest publicly-available statistics show that, as of 15th June, no Covid patents were receiving mechanical ventilation.
The increase in hospitalisations in Central Lancashire comes around three weeks after the start of a sustained and significant rise in Covid case rates across Preston, Chorley and South Ribble. Only in South Ribble is it so far showing any sign of going into reverse - whereas in Preston, there were 326 Covid cases per 100,000 residents in the week to 15th June, the city’s highest recorded rate since 8th February.
The LTH staff memo also notes that on 16th June, when there were 57 Covid patients across its sites, 18 of them were suspected to have been infected with the virus after being hospitalised. That represented 31 percent of the day’s total Covid inpatients at the trust and marked the latest in what were highlighted as being “significant daily rises” in hospital-acquired infections.
Workers were urged to read a special briefing on the issue and to “continue to stick to the infection, prevention and control measures to help reduce the risk of nosocomial [hospital-contracted] infection".
Staff were also encouraged to sign up for a saliva-based testing regime known as LAMP, which the Post has learned is gradually replacing the lateral flow testing programme that was introduced at LTH late last year as part of a national rollout. It is understood that while the latter is being widely engaged with by staff, fewer have so far made the switch to the new system.
“It is important that as many staff as possible sign-up to the LAMP testing programme to help ensure that asymptomatic colleagues are not unknowingly spreading the virus in our hospitals,” the message states.
In a separate communication with staff on 15th June they were warned that patients and staff without symptoms “pose the greatest risk to the spread of infection”.
That email also revealed that, out of what were described as “recent” Covid cases at the trust, 31 percent had not yet been vaccinated and 27 percent had received one dose - but 42 percent had been given both of their jabs prior to testing positive.
It was not stated whether the required two weeks had elapsed since double-dose patients had been vaccinated in order for the vaccine to have its maximum effect - and that detail was not available from the trust when sought by the Post. Neither were the ages of those hospitalised provided in the memo to staff.
Public Health England last week published research suggesting that just one dose of a vaccine reduced the risk of hospitalisation as a result of the Delta variant by 75 percent - and by 94 percent after two jabs.
Last Wednesday, LTH suspended visiting for most adult inpatients in response to rising Covid cases across its sites, including an outbreak on a ward at the Royal Preston which has since been closed to new admissions.
In 15th June message to staff, they were advised of the measures being taken in response to the deteriorating situation. These include “detailed tracking” of patients who are Covid contacts and communicating with matron teams to ensure that “patient placement is considered carefully so as not to spread infection”.
At an LTH board meeting on 3rd June - when no hospital-acquired Covid was then being reported at the trust - chief executive Karen Partington issued what has since proved a prescient warning about the difficulty of avoiding it.
“Given the size of our trust, our [specialist] centre status and high numbers of Covid infections in local communities over the pandemic period - linked with the age of our estate, making social distancing and ventilation quite a challenge - we will feature in the future in league tables and press articles around nosocomial infections.”
Meanwhile, in a video message posted on the trust’s website last week after cases began to rise, medical director Dr. Gerry Skailes said: “The safety of patients and our staff is our top priority and we have taken immediate action within our hospitals to limit the risk of the virus spreading.
“However, the very best way to protect people is to limit the numbers in our hospitals, so that only those that really need to be there are on our sites,” she said, stressing that the Royal Preston and Chorley Hospital still stood ready to offer “the care only a hospital can provide”.
Dr. Skailes added: “Another way of keeping people safe is to ensure that we discharge people back home or to their next place of care as soon as they are medically fit to leave us. We are working together with other health and care providers to do everything we can to speed up this process.
“I’d like to encourage everyone to get the Covid-19 vaccination as the very best way of protecting your health and the health of those you love.
“Although it is still possible to get Covid after being vaccinated, you are less likely to be seriously ill if you have had both vaccinations.”
In common with trusts across England, LTH is currently experiencing high demand for urgent and emergency services. It experienced the highest number of daily attendances ever recorded at its A&E and urgent treatment centres across Preston and Chorley hospitals on 7th June - a total of 604 patients.
LTH was approached for further comment on the issues raised in the memos sent to staff.
COVID IN CENTRAL LANCASHIRE
The number of cases per 100,000 residents in the week to 15th June, followed by the percentage increase on that measure compared to the week to 8th June - and then the total number of individual cases across the 8th-15th June period.
326.3 - up 34.6 percent - 467 cases
263.1 - up 16.5 percent - 311 cases
296.1 - down 10.6 percent - 297 cases
Most recent deaths
2 (week ending 14th May)
1 (week ending 9th April)
1 (week ending 28th May)
Source: gov.uk (by local authority area)