Whittington reached Covid-19 patient ‘peak' four weeks ago

New stats shows 'dramatic' drop in A&E attendances

Tuesday, 28th April 2020 — By Tom Foot

Siobhan Harrington

Whittington chief executive Siobhan Harrington

THE Whittington Hospital reached a coronavirus “peak” four weeks ago, according to new figures showing patients numbers are on the slide.

The statistics for suspected and confirmed Covid-19 patients at the Archway hospital have dropped to fewer than 100 since the high point around March 29.

A report, due to be debated by the hospital’s board tomorrow (Wednesday), said: “The maximum surge in COVID-19 admissions was in the week ending March 29 2020, with the peak of COVID-19 high probability cases a week later.”

The decreasing figures come on top of national newspapers reports that patient numbers in the Nightingale Hospital are “ludicrously low”. The hospital was set-up in east London to cope with a surge in hospital admissions in London hospitals, but is now said to be almost empty.

The Whittington board report said that since the first cases came in on March 19, 400 patients had been admitted “with a clinical syndrome consistent with COVID-19”. Of these 323 tested positive and 77 had been unable to be tested but had been “managed accordingly”, the report said.

Of the 400, 194 were discharged home, while 38 were sent to “another provider”. The Whittington, as of the weekend, has reported 95 deaths inside the hospital.

The report also revealed that 15 patients had to be re-admitted after being successfully discharged. This group had been marked as having “two phases of coronavirus”.

Managers have also expressed concern about an unprecedented drop in attendances at A&E which they say is a “direct result of Covid-19”.

In her report to the board, chief executive Siobhan Harrington said: “During the pandemic, there has been a very different experience in ED [Emergency Department] with the number of attendances reducing dramatically and the trust concentrating on ensuring patient safety. In March, there were 6,565 A&E attendances which was 3,155 attendances lower than 12 months ago in March 2019.”

The figures “continue to be reflected in April 2020”, the report added.

Attendance figures for Whittington ED have remained around the 10,000-a-month mark for several years. The drop suggests that patients are choosing not to risk going to hospital for fear of catching the virus.

The Whittington’s graph showing the falling numbers of Covid-19 patients 

Following the national outcry about the supply of protective equipment for staff, the Whittington said there were now no problems.

The New Journal reported earlier this month how the privatised “Logistics” arm of the NHS Supply Chain was struggling with organising deliveries – and that the army had been brought in to help.

Unions in NHS equipment warehouses had been balloting for strike action before the pandemic because of cost-cutting that had affected staff numbers.

The Whittington report said “logistics were now being managed by the army” and this had led to “a clear pathway in place for emergency department and community services to receive regular supplies”.

The report said that 11.5 per cent of the trust’s 4,000 staff have had to take time off sick because of coronavirus.

The Whittington is due to hold its first every board meeting behind closed doors on Wednesday because of coronavirus social distancing rules.

Ms Harrington’s statement to the board said the trust had been “overwhelmed by the level of support” from individuals, organisations, businesses through donations to the NHS trust’s Coronavirus Relief Fund, adding: “The Trust would like to thank all of the local people and organisations and volunteers who have helped us during this time.”

She also thanked the staff, saying that the usual employee and team of the month awards were not appropriate because of the huge collective contribution of all employees.

Tomorrow (Wednesday) will also be the first day in charge for new chairwoman, Baroness Julia Neuberger, who has replaced Steve Hitchins following his death last year.

The Baroness, a Lib Dem peer and senior rabbi who is also chair of UCLH, was chairwoman of Camden & Islington Community Health Services Trust from 1992 to 1997.

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