Swindon residents urged to play their part as GWH experiences soaring COVID-19 cases

By Barrie Hudson - 12 January 2021

CommunityHealth

Great Western Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (GWH) is now treating well over 100 covid-19 patients and has warned that these numbers are continuing to climb.

In order to arrest the steep rise in coronavirus cases, Swindon Borough Council and the trust are once again urging residents to follow public health guidance to protect their local hospital.

In line with the rest of the country, Swindon’s case rate has continued to increase rapidly over the past several weeks, with the number of cases now vastly surpassing those seen at the beginning of the pandemic.

In the past seven days, Swindon has seen 1,214 new cases of COVID-19, with the borough’s current seven-day rolling case rate at 546.4 per 100,000 in comparison to 382.5 per 100,000 across the South West. 

Tragically, over the last week, there have also been another eight deaths across the borough, including some at the Great Western Hospital, bringing the total to 143 deaths recorded within 28 days of a positive COVID-19 test.

At Great Western Hospital, the spike in cases has resulted in a significant increase in the number of hospital admissions, including for patients requiring intensive care and other respiratory support.

Kevin McNamara, Chief Executive of Great Western Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “This is a really crucial time for our services, and the numbers we are seeing far exceed those which we saw in the first wave. 

"In this past week alone we have seen a 45 per cent increase in the number of patients now in hospital because of coronavirus. This means that the number of beds needed for covid-19 patients reduces the beds available for other patients, so our resources are really stretched.

“Whilst you might not think you will be affected by covid-19, it’s also important to remember that the more covid-19 patients we see, the less capacity we have to treat conditions such as heart attacks and stroke, and emergencies like road traffic accidents.

“With the roll-out of our covid-19 vaccination programme well underway, there is some hope ahead. The vaccine programme is a marathon, not a sprint, and there is still some way to go, so everyone must continue to follow the rules. 

"The message from our staff is clear – wash your hands, cover your face and make space.”

Currently, there are 144 patients being treated at the hospital with confirmed or suspected COVID-19, as well as hundreds of patients requiring care for other conditions. There are also a significant number of patients in ICU, and extra capacity has been created to increase the intensive care bed base.

Across the hospital, six wards have been converted to covid-19 wards, meaning there are fewer beds available for other patients and those arriving at the Emergency Department might be waiting longer than usual to be seen.

Staff at the Trust are extremely busy supporting the high numbers of patients and, last week, the hospital had to cancel some non-urgent in-patent appointments for the first time during this wave of coronavirus.

The number of patients requiring support in intensive care also leads to the risk of a lack of beds for patients requiring care for other illnesses and injuries outside of covid. 

These include patients with heart conditions, those facing major surgery or those experiencing life-threatening injuries. For the hospital to continue caring for all patients, it is crucial the case rate and the number of covid patients admitted to hospital begins to decrease immediately.

In November last year, the council and the Trust launched the ‘Let’s do it for our GWH’ campaign, but the message from the council is that this is more important than ever.

Over the coming weeks the council will once again be working with the trust to show residents the impact the virus has on the local hospital, asking them to act now by following the most up-to-date guidance. 

This will help reduce the Borough’s case rate, protect the local hospital and allow staff to provide the care to all those who need it.

As part of the campaign, Steve Maddern, Swindon Borough Council’s Director of Public Health, and Kevin McNamara, Chief Executive of Great Western Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, will be taking part in a live Facebook Q&A on Thursday (14 Jan).

Social media users can submit their questions beforehand or tune in to the council’s corporate Facebook page at 5pm to watch the session live and leave questions for Steve and Kevin in the comments section.

On Tuesday, 5 January the Prime Minister announced the latest national lockdown. While it is hoped this action will help to slow the spread of the infection, this will only work if all residents stick to the guidance and follow the rules, which can be found on the Government’s website: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/national-lockdown-stay-at-home

Councillor Brian Ford, Swindon Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Adults and Health, said: “The significant rise in the number of people requiring hospital care, especially those requiring intensive care, is evidence of how important it is we all do everything we can to limit the spread of coronavirus in Swindon.

“The past year has been incredibly difficult and the national lockdown will no doubt bring familiar challenges to many residents. However, at this critical time, it is vital everyone in Swindon plays their part and follows the rules or we risk pushing our hospital and local health services to breaking point.

“It is up to all of us to continue to follow guidance as carefully as possible to protect ourselves, our loved ones, our neighbours and, most importantly, our local health services.”

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