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Most A&Es unable to maintain social distancing due to overcrowding

A&Es are ‘dangerously’ crowded already with three-quarters unable to keep social distancing and HALF treating patients in corridors weeks before, doctors warn

  • The Royal College of Emergency Medicine surveyed nearly 100 A&E doctors
  • Three in four said they couldn’t keep to Covid rules on at least one day of week
  • Twenty-five per cent said they’re unable to maintain social distancing every day

Three quarters of A&Es are unable to comply with social distancing because they are ‘dangerously’ overcrowded, leading medics have warned.

The Royal College of Emergency Medicine surveyed senior doctors at 110 emergency departments across England as they brace for what could be the toughest winter on record. 

Three in four said they could not maintain social distancing – key to preventing already-sick people from catching coronavirus – on at least one day per week. Twenty-five per cent said they unable to do so every day.

The RCEM said a mixture of bed and staff shortages, as well as new Covid-19 rules – which mean A&Es are running at reduced capacity – had allowed crowding to ‘return with a vengeance’.

It warned that, as the virus resurges and standards in A&E dip, casualty departments were ‘at risk of becoming a hub of transmission’ for the virus.

Half of doctors surveyed admitted to having to care for patients in corridors because of the issue, despite national guidance ruling this should never happen, particularly during the pandemic.

And 80 per cent of departments were found to be unable to offload ambulances at least one day per week, leaving patients having to be treated in hospital car parks.

Three quarters of A&Es are unable to comply with social distancing because they are ‘dangerously’ overcrowded (file)

Dr Katherine Henderson, president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, said: ‘This survey illustrates the perilous state in our emergency departments as we head into winter. 

‘We aren’t even into winter yet, but crowding is returning with a vengeance and in the Covid endemic era, that will put more lives at risk than it ever did before.

‘The rate of infection in the community must be brought down. If Covid cases continue to rise EDs are at risk of becoming a hub of transmission. We cannot let that happen. EDs must be safe for patients this winter.

Liverpool’s hospitals are treating more coronavirus patients now than they were at  the peak of the crisis, it was claimed today.

The medical director of the biggest NHS trust in the city said beds occupied by Covid-19 patients had already surpassed levels in April and that they were ‘continuing to rise’.

Dr Tristan Cope, of Liverpool University Hospitals NHS Trust, made the claim on Twitter today but did not offer any data to back it up.

There were 390 beds occupied by Covid-19 patients at the peak of the city’s crisis on April 13, official figures show. 

NHS England said today there were currently 398 virus patients being treated at the trust’s hospitals, which include the Royal Liverpool University Hospital, Aintree University Hospital and Broadgreen Hospital.   

However, the most recent published figures only go up to October 1, and on that date just 95 beds were occupied Covid-19 patients    

‘NHS leaders and organisations must recognise the huge risk that crowding poses and take urgent action so that EDs are sufficiently prepared to deal with covid while remaining open for essential urgent and emergency care.’ 

The RCEM said England’s A&E departments would need 19,000 more beds on top of their pre-Covid capacity just to get through the winter in one piece.

It’s also calling for an additional 2,770 emergency medicine consultants to address the shortage in the workforce.

The body says delivering 6,000 more GPs and expanding primary care services would also give patients alternative access to care and ease pressure on A&Es.

Dr Henderson added: ‘We must reduce crowding, increase alternative access to care, work to retain staff, improve patient experience and ensure safety is at the heart of what we do.

‘Our priority is safe patient care but without further action from government we worry that Emergency Departments will continue their deterioration into disrepair; compromising their safety, increasing crowding and affecting patient experience.

‘Essential action must be taken to forge real, vital change that will significantly improve urgent and emergency care and make it even safer while we are dealing with Covid.’ 

Hospitals in Covid-19 hotspots are already starting to become just as full with virus patients as they were at the peak of the crisis in April.

NHS England warned today there were currently 398 Covid-19 patients being treated at Liverpool University Hospitals, the biggest NHS trust in the city.

By comparison, there were 390 beds occupied by virus sufferers at the peak of the city’s crisis on April 13, official figures show.

Even at the peak of the crisis in Britain, only a quarter of all beds were occupied by virus patients. On April 7, 26.5 per cent of the 67,206 people in England’s hospitals were being treated for coronavirus — the highest proportion on record

However, the most recent published figures only go up to October 1, and on that date just 95 beds were occupied Covid-19 patients   

The disparities in the statistics have fuelled an ongoing row over transparency around hospital data.

The Government and health professionals have used terrifying hospital statistics to justify putting cities under harsher lockdowns. 

But without up-to-date figures being regularly published, it has been difficult to fact check the claims.

Manchester mayor Andy Burnham and other local leaders have accused officials of ‘cherry picking’ figures to exaggerate the scale of the problem in the North West.  

At the peak of the crisis in Britain, only a quarter of all beds were occupied by virus patients, NHS figures show. 

On April 7, 26.5 per cent of the 67,206 people in England’s hospitals were being treated for coronavirus — the highest proportion on record.

Covid-19 patients are currently occupying fewer than 2 per cent of all hospital beds in England in September, official data suggested. This figure has since risen but is still much lower than levels seen during the first wave.

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