Derby and Burton hospitals set to increase number of intensive care beds ahead of new Covid strain

Derby and Burton’s hospitals are set to increase the number of their intensive care beds in preparation of the new Covid-19 virus strain piling further pressure on staff and services.

Leadership at the University Hospitals of Derby and Burton NHS Foundation Trust expect the full impact of the new strain of the virus to hit the East Midlands in mid-January.

It is already believed to be causing rapid increases in cases in the community – particularly in Derby and Amber Valley but these infections typically lag two to three weeks behind hospital admissions.

The hospital trust has been approached for comment. It was asked for the scale of the increase numbers of ICU beds, when they would be brought in, where they would be placed (such as in converted surgical theatres). It was also asked for clarity on the overall number of baseline ICU beds it has and its surge capacity.

In his recent weekly column, Gavin Boyle, the organisation’s chief executive, says Royal Derby Hospital and Queen’s Hospital in Burton have been running their intensive care units at full capacity or above since the beginning of October – more than three months.

He said that “the additional capacity is supported by anaesthetic and theatre staff re-trained to work in intensive care”.

In April, the trust had quadrupled its intensive care beds from 22 to 129.

It is now looking to add further capacity in anticipation of a further increase of cases caused by the new strain, which is up to 70 per cent more contagious and transmissible.

In a report, he said: “Our critical care units have been operating well above baseline capacity for many weeks now.

“However, looking at the experiences in London and the South East, we are making plans to increase our critical care surge capacity even further.

“On a positive note though, relative to the total numbers of Covid-19 patients we have in the hospitals, a smaller proportion have needed the most acute care in our ICUs.

“This reflects better treatments that have been developed since the first wave, but it also means that other parts of our hospitals are having to work even harder than before.”

It is investing £3.8 million to permanently increase its baseline capacity (below urgent surge beds) to create three extra beds at Royal Derby and two at Queen’s.

The hospital trust is currently home to record numbers of Covid-19 patients, far above anything it experienced in the first wave and in the months since.

It has now surpassed 430 Covid-19 patients – 70 per cent above its first wave high of 252.

Royal Derby Hospital on its own is now treating more Covid patients than it and Queen’s in Burton had combined in the first wave.