Hospital sees record day for emergency visits, as Covid numbers rise

The Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital. 

The Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital. - Credit: NNUH

A Norfolk hospital recently endured a record-breaking day in its emergency department, amid rising numbers of Covid patients and pressure on beds.  

At a Wednesday meeting of the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH) Trust’s board of directors, chief executive Sam Higginson said: “If we go back to May, June time, we were running at ones and twos [number of Covid patients], and we’re now up in the mid 20s and at times getting up to 30 and above.” 

In recent days the trust has been at Local Covid State 3, indicating “some prevalence of Covid-19 in in-patient areas”, but on Wednesday returned to Local Covid State 2, indicating a “low” prevalence. 

Sam Higginson, chief executive of the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital. Picture: NNUH

Sam Higginson, chief executive of the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital. Picture: NNUH - Credit: Archant

There are also pressures on the hospital’s emergency department.

“Traditionally we have a slightly quieter time in August - it didn’t feel like that at all, and that level of demand just continued into September and October,” said Mr Higginson. 

In the middle of October, Mr Higginson said, the hospital's record for emergency department attendance in a single day was broken. 

“We’re really seeing the pressure and that demand is not just patients with potential Covid complications, it’s very much an impact of what’s happened from the pandemic over the last 18 months - so we’re seeing much frailer patients, we’re seeing patients who perhaps previously might have come to us earlier, with other conditions and all of that is exacerbating the pressure we’re seeing at the front door.”

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He added this was contributing to delays in ambulance handover times. 

Medical director Professor Erika Denton said the hospital had recently passed the point of more than 700 Covid-related deaths since the pandemic began.

Erika Denton, Medical Director at NNUH. Photo: NNUH

Erika Denton, Medical Director at NNUH. Photo: NNUH - Credit: NNUH

Prof Denton later said: “I’m a regular Radio Norfolk attender, early in the morning, telling the whole of Norfolk that vaccination is not protecting you in a bubble from the rest of the world. 

“I think it is really unfortunate that we still have some very mixed messages in the press and politically, that are not medically sound. I thought it was very telling yesterday to see some of our political leaders not wearing masks, in very close proximity to others who would be deemed as being frail and vulnerable.”

She said there was “a tension” between medical guidance and political advice.

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