Hospitals see 10 per cent drop in COVID-19 patients - but severe cases remain high

Lister Hospital

At the East and North Herts NHS trust, which runs Lister Hospital, critical care and mechanical ventilation cases are up. - Credit: Danny Loo

The number of COVID-19 patients in Hertfordshire hospital beds fell by more than 10 per cent in two weeks, according to the latest NHS data.

However, the number of critical care beds occupied in the county went up.

The latest bed occupancy figures, published late last week, went up to Tuesday, January 26.

They showed hospital cases were now starting to go the same way as infections.

By January 26, Hertfordshire’s infection rate had shown week-on-week decline for 20 days in a row.

On January 5, the county’s confirmed rate had been 831.4 cases per 100,000 residents.

Three weeks later, on January 26, it was 330 – a 60 per cent reduction.

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Trends in hospital cases typically trail weeks behind infection rates, as the virus takes time to incubate, cause symptoms and then become severe enough to require hospital treatment.

As such, by the time the county’s infection rate had begun to fall in early January, hospital cases were still increasing.

On January 5, there had been 561 coronavirus patients in beds across four Herts NHS trusts: East and North Herts; West Herts; Herts Community; and Herts Partnership.

By January 12, it had risen by almost 8 per cent, to 604.

But two weeks later, on January 26, it had dropped back down to 540 – a 10.6 per cent decline.

However, data suggested the number of people requiring critical care and mechanical ventilation had not yet begun to follow the same pattern, though.

On January 12, there had been 46 patients who needed mechanical ventilation. By January 26, that had fallen by only one, to 45.

A different set of NHS data showed the number of critical care beds occupied across the county was still rising instead of falling.

That data, up to January 24, showed that on that date, there were 57 critical care beds filled.

Two weeks earlier it had been 53.

Jim McManus, the county’s director of public health, said earlier this month that the survival rate had improved due to more effective treatments, but that meant more people were staying in hospital for longer.

“More people are needing longer periods of rehab,” he said. “It’s quite clear the virus is knocking them for six and they need some time in.”

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