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Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge prepares for peak of up to 500 Covid-19 patients on its wards



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Addenbrooke’s is admitting twice as many Covid-19 patients than its previously predicted worst-case scenario.

The Cambridge hospital is preparing for a peak of up to 500 Covid-19 patients in its wards before the end of January.

Roland Sinker, chief executive of the Cambridge University Hospitals. Picture: Keith Heppell
Roland Sinker, chief executive of the Cambridge University Hospitals. Picture: Keith Heppell

It is taking in 25 patients a day – whereas earlier modelling suggested it would admit up to 12 daily.

The hospital is getting ready to use its ‘surge centre’ to provide extra beds as the more easily transmissible variant of the virus continues to spread rapidly.

Roland Sinker, the chief executive of Cambridge University Hospitals, which runs Addenbrooke’s, has acknowledged that the latest surge was taking a serious toll on NHS staff.

“The challenges are enormous. The sheer physical, emotional and mental effort of completing a shift in this situation is draining,” he said.

Mr Sinker admitted the new variant – thought to be 50 to 70 per cent more transmissible – had forced the hospital trust to rip up its previous models of patient flows.

“The modelling now predicts that we should prepare for a peak somewhere between 300 and 500 cases at either the middle or end of January,” he said, acknowledging that there was “uncertainty” around the forecast and every day brought new insight into the impact of Tier 4 restrictions, Christmas Day bubbles and the present lockdown.

“On Monday, we had 220 patients with Covid-19 in the hospital and 58 in critical care. We continue to create additional red acute medical beds for Covid-19 patients and are expanding critical care capacity.

“Our plan for the next changes to the configuration of the hospital sets out the steps we will take to accommodate up to 400 Covid-19 patients and we are preparing further plans to take us beyond this should that be necessary.”

The hospital plans to open its first 20 beds in a “surge centre” by the end of March. This site, next to the children’s services administration offices, was not required during the first wave of the virus but will be used now for patients ready to transfer out of hospital for onward care.

If needed, there is capacity for a further 40 beds, Mr Sinker confirmed, and another 60 will be ready by early autumn.

Covid-19 vaccinations are now being rolled out fast to Cambridge University Hospitals staff on site.

Addenbrooke's Hospital Picture: Keith Heppell (43778283)
Addenbrooke's Hospital Picture: Keith Heppell (43778283)

Mr Sinker said on Tuesday: “The hub at the Deakin Centre is doing an incredible job of switching to a staff programme almost overnight, and my thanks go to all involved in this. Before Christmas we vaccinated 4,000 people, and today we will deliver our daily target of vaccinating 650 members of staff per day. Every protected person protects us all and while we are prioritising the most at-risk staff first, we know that we will have reached all staff by the end of this month.”

The hospital is also conducting an asymptomatic testing programme for staff that Mr Sinker described as among the “very best in the NHS”, and more than 4,000 people have already been swabbed.

The hospital trust now has 11 taskforces to deal with a “multitude of urgent pressures”, including identifying physical space available in the hospital and the redeployment of staff, while ensuring the hospital has sufficient personal protective equipment (PPE).

“The flexibility and movement across roles and teams that we’re asking of our staff is unprecedented and we know how hard this is,” he said.

Addenbrooke’s has also taken a number of Covid-19 patients into critical care units and acute wards to relieve pressures on hospitals that have been even harder hit.

Paying tribute to staff and the wider healthcare, Mr Sinker said: “The next few weeks will be our toughest yet in this pandemic, but we have every reason to be optimistic for what the rest of 2021 may bring.”

There was evidence that some relief may be in sight, however, as Cambridge and most areas of Cambridgeshire recorded a week-on-week reduction in positive Covid-19 cases, as the Cambridge Independent has reported.

Meanwhile, the roll-out of Covid-19 vaccinations cannot accelerate fast enough to ease the pressure on hospital staff.

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