Coronavirus cases down 20pc at Royal Free and Whittington hospital trusts

Dr Sarah Bigham - Royal Free

Dr Sarah Bigham, from Camden's Royal Free Hospital, said the number of Covid-19 patients in intensive care was slow to fall because some of them required months of care. - Credit: Royal Free NHS Trust / Daniel Leal-Olivas - PA Wire

The number of intensive care patients at the Royal Free NHS trust has fallen, week-on-week, for the first time since November.

NHS data showed that in the first week of February, critical care occupancy dropped by 8.5 per cent, from 118 beds to 108.

However, the figures remain high. The trust has more than doubled its intensive care capacity to cope with the second wave of Covid-19, turning other areas of the hospital into temporary intensive care wards.

In an interview last week, intensive care doctor Sarah Bigham said occupancy at the Royal Free Hospital had peaked at more than 90 beds and remained “in the high eighties”.

The rest of the trust’s intensive care beds are at its hospital in Barnet.


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More than 200 staff at the trust have had to be redeployed to intensive care. Combat medical technicians from the army have also been drafted in to help.

The nearby Whittington trust, which has far fewer critical care beds, remained at 100pc of its capacity on February 9 – as it had been for a month.

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However, the number of coronavirus patients in hospital beds across the two trusts has been gradually falling every week since January 12, when they were treating a combined 688 Covid-19 inpatients.

By February 2 the figure had dropped to 533. A week later, on February 9, it fell to 426 – a 20pc week-on-week reduction.

Deaths have also fallen significantly. In the week to January 21, the trusts had 118 Covid-19 deaths. In the week to February 4, it was 63.

Dr Bigham said last week that the reason intensive care occupancy fell more slowly was that the severity of illness in the wards’ patients meant they took longer to recover.

She said she had seen Covid-19 patients whose brains, hearts and kidneys had been affected by the virus, in addition to their lungs.

“These patients are in intensive care because they require organ support,” she said. “The majority are intubated and ventilated and of course the disease, when people are this sick, takes some time to improve.

“We do have some longer stay patients in intensive care who are still on a ventilator and just require more time. People have been in for months.”

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