Covid-19 changed the face of healthcare for ever. Today, our hospitals are living with that legacy, having reorganised the way we work in order to contain the spread of an easily-transmissible respiratory disease that can be fatal. Although society is relaxing the restrictions that began with the first lockdown two years ago, the threat of viral infection remains. We will continue to wear appropriate facemasks, wash hands frequently and observe social distancing in our hospitals to protect vulnerable patients and staff.
Adapting and responding
Over the two years of the pandemic we treated almost 14,600 people for Covid-19, of whom 2,159 sadly died. The immediate impact of the first wave in spring 2020 was a fall in demand for care unrelated to the virus. For a short period, attendances in A&E slumped, and our most pressing challenge was creating extra critical care capacity.
We then adapted to living with Covid-19. For example, people continued to access A&E through the second wave, which peaked during the winter of 2020/21. For the past year, A&E attendances were as high as before the pandemic. Meanwhile, in practice, most Covid-19 patients were cared for on general wards, and the proportion of them needing critical care fell from 5% in the first two waves to 3.5% in the third.
The longer-term impact of Covid was to create a backlog of planned care. As we emerge from the third wave (which effectively lasted the whole of 2021/22), our top priority is to reduce the numbers of patients waiting too long for routine treatment.
However, patient numbers are back up to pre-pandemic levels. Throughout the last 12 months, our hospitals saw or treated more than 6,000 people every single day. In challenging circumstances we continued to provide care for our local communities.
Continuing to care
Over the two years of the pandemic, almost four million people received an episode of treatment at a Barts Health hospital. Despite the pressures of the first and second wave peaks, our hospitals treated over 15 times more inpatients in 2020/21 than we had Covid-19 cases. For the third wave in 2021/22, the ratio was 30 times more.
Many of these were emergency admissions, fulfilling our promise to maintain urgent and emergency NHS care for our communities. Yet surgeons also performed over 100,000 day-case operations, and midwives delivered more than 15,000 babies each year. In addition, over the last two years, for each individual case of Covid-19 on our books we treated almost 60 people in A&E and conducted about 180 outpatient appointment clinics.
On top of this, we successfully set up the NHS Nightingale London hospital at the peak of the first wave, carried out research into Covid-19 treatments and vaccines, established two large-scale vaccination centres for the people of east London and beyond, and set up a Covid-19 medicines delivery unit. None of this would have been possible without the hard work and dedication of our staff and volunteers.
Alwen Williams, group chief executive, said: “Our staff responded magnificently to the additional challenges that Covid-19 brought. They played a major part in London’s response to the virus. They also deserve huge credit for continuing to provide safe and compassionate care for other sick and ill patients throughout the pandemic. Our heartfelt thanks go out to all of you.”
Source: Barts Health Business Information Unit