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Triple Covid pressure facing Royal Blackburn Hospital is laid bare

THE high number of coronavirus cases in the Royal Blackburn Teaching Hospital and its critical care department have forced bosses to transfer patients elsewhere.

It now has 45 patients diagnosed with Covid-19 filling two dedicated wards and another 11 in its Intensive Treatment Unit.

With the number of seriously ill patients in the Royal Blackburn’s care approaching that of the first wave of the pandemic last year, some have been moved to other North West hospitals to ease the pressure.

Its normal ITU capacity is now filled with coronavirus patients even though beds are being fitted into the spaces between beds.

Martin Hodgson, East Lancashire Hospitals Trust’s deputy chief executive, said: “Community infection rates and the number of people who need to be admitted to hospital suffering from Covid have been consistently high in East Lancashire.We currently have two designated Covid wards operating at full capacity as well as a number of patients desperately ill in critical care.

“The pandemic has created significant pressure on all of our services and the trust continues to work with the wider NHS across Lancashire, South Cumbria, Greater Manchester, Cheshire and Merseyside to safely provide the correct level of care for Covid and non-Covid patients.

“Working as one system provides the ability to respond to pressures by moving staff and, where clinically appropriate, patients between sites.

“The trust continues to see high volumes of people coming into accident and emergency at levels we have never seen before and the pressure on colleagues is immense.

“The team is also working flat out to reduce waiting lists quickly.”

Professor Dominic Harrison, Blackburn with Darwen Council’s public health director, said: “There were 45 patients identified with Covid-19 in the care of ELHT on Tuesday morning.

“That is high but a reduction on the 62 three weeks ago. It is still a real cause for concern.

“While the number of coronavirus cases across several Lancashire boroughs is still rising, the rate in Blackburn with Darwen’s has started to fall.

“We may be over the worst but the hospitals trust is facing three problems – the number of Covid patients, the need to keep beds and critical care beds for other surgeries; and the number of staff being forced to self-isolate.

“This means the problem is sometimes not just the number of critical care beds but the number of staff to look after them.

However he added: “There is also the prospect that with this week’s lifting of most legal Covid restrictions, the number of cases will start to go up again.

“To reduce the pressures, people should get their Covid jabs; be careful; continue to wear face masks in enclosed and crowded spaces; and continue to social distance where possible.”

Cllr Mustafa Desai, Blackburn with Darwen Council’s adults services boss, said: “The Royal Blackburn has been under significant pressure, particularly with a return to routine treatment coinciding with the recent surge in infections due to the Covid Delta variant.”