One of the country’s largest hospitals has been forced to transfer Covid patients elsewhere and will begin turning patients away from A&E as the rise in coronavirus cases pushes it to its limits.
In a dramatic move to try and relieve pressure, bosses at the University Hospitals Birmingham (UHB) Trust told The Independent they would be “closing the front door” of its three main hospitals to non-emergency patients for the first time.
Anyone who turns up and who has not been involved in an accident or does not have an emergency will not be treated. Instead patients will be told to see their GP, call NHS 111 or care for themselves. The trust estimates this could affect up to 330 patients a day and help prevent long delays in patients stuck waiting in ambulances because the A&E departments are full.
It comes after hospitals in Liverpool and Nottingham warned they would have to cancel some operations again with hospitals in the northeast of England battling multiple outbreaks of Covid-19. The emergency Nightingale hospitals in Manchester, Sunderland and Harrogate have been placed on standby although there has been no move yet to reopen the Birmingham Nightingale at the NEC.
One doctor at the trust told The Independent: “We have been shipping Covid patients out of UHB to other hospitals left right and centre this week to keep our heads above water. We aren’t inundated, we are just at our limits.
“It’s difficult. The staff here are brilliant clinicians and they are doing a great job but it’s just sensible for the public to know what it’s like. The trust has to be honest with the world.”
Across the trust there are more than 210 patients with coronavirus on Friday, including 19 in intensive care. Birmingham saw 314 people test positive for Covid-19 on Thursday with the city seeing a seven-day rate of infection of around 187 cases for every 100,000 people – far less than areas such as Liverpool, where the rolling average is more than 688 cases.
A second intensive care consultant at the trust, who asked not to be named, warned services would be unlikely to cope if the trust tried to keep doing planned operations at the same time as coping with normal winter pressure and rising coronavirus cases.