Another rise in Bristol's Covid hospital admissions - but new hope the city has now reached its peak

By Tristan Cork

There has been another rise in Bristol's Covid hospital admissions - but today's figures show new hope that the city has now reached its peak.

The latest statistics show that the Omicron wave caused record daily admissions twice last week, with 31 covid patients being admitted in a single day - twice - but that surge of admissions may have already peaked.

According to the Government’s Covid data, there were a total of 170 people with Covid-19 in hospitals run by Bristol’s two NHS trusts on Tuesday, January 11.

READ MORE: Bristol Covid expert warns 'worst is not over' and Omicron wave could last months

That is up on the week before, when there were 141 patients in hospital on January 4, and exactly double the 85 who were in hospital with Covid-19 on Christmas Day.

But with infection rates appearing to have peaked in Bristol, there is a glimmer of good news for covid hospital rates too.

The first week of January saw record numbers of people testing positive for Covid-19 in Bristol. On January 4, 1,538 tested positive for Covid-19 in the city, the highest number in one day since the start of the pandemic. That infection rate is now showing signs of falling - and it hasn’t been over 1,000 a day since last Thursday, although this may be more to do with the Government telling people they do not need to take a PCR test after a positive Lateral Flow test at home.

Staff at Bristol’s two main hospitals, and at Weston General, have seen higher Covid-19 admissions than ever before too, but that is also showing signs of falling.

On December 28 and again on January 3, a total of 31 people were admitted to hospitals run by the University Hospitals NHS Trust - which manage the Bristol Royal Infirmary, the children’s hospital and Weston General, among others.

That equalled the record number of daily admissions set at the height of the devastating second wave of Covid-19 in January and February last year, when 31 patients were admitted on January 17, 2021.

With another 30 patients also admitted to the BRI on January 4 this year, it meant the numbers in hospital with Covid-19 shot up from 66 on January 2 to a peak of 109 four days later.

What do you think about this story? Log in and join the debate

At Southmead Hospital, there has been a similar sharp rise in the first week of January. Numbers of Covid-19 patients at Southmead reached 86 last Friday, January 7.

This week, however, the increase has stabilised and begun to fall.

On Tuesday, the latest day figures are available, there were 81 covid patients at Southmead, and 89 at UHBW hospitals, a slight fall on last weekend.

Seriously ill patients

There could be even better news with regards to the severity of the virus. At the Bristol Royal Infirmary, the numbers of covid patients in intensive care and needing to be on a ventilator peaked last Friday at ten, and has since dropped to four on Tuesday.

At Southmead Hospital, there were 11 patients on ventilators last weekend, but that fell to seven on Tuesday.

The next week or so will make it clear whether the recent small falls in cases and hospitalisations this week are a sign the Omicron wave has peaked, or is still continuing its overall upwards trend.

NHS bosses are urging people to remain vigilant about the virus, to maintain mask-wearing, distancing and ventilation, while also conduct regular testing to ensure they are not passing on the virus to more vulnerable people.

Bristol's 'Nightingale Surge Hub' for Covid-19 patients takes shape in the car park at Southmead Hospital (North Bristol NHS Trust)

Work on a 'Nightingale Surge Hub' - a temporary hospital in the car park of Southmead Hospital - continued this week, and next week is expected to be at the point of being fitted out to take coronavirus patients. The 'surge hubs' were announced by the Health Secretary Sajid Javid in between Christmas and New Year at the start of the sudden rise in cases and hospitalisations, although some consultants expressed concerns that NHS bosses would struggle to staff the extra capacity.

What don’t we know

The figures from the Government’s covid data dashboard show daily admissions to each hospital trust, the total number of patients in hospital who have tested positive for Covid-19 and the number of the most serious Covid-19 patients in mechanical ventilation beds.

What they do not show is the percentage of those positive Covid-19 cases in hospital for whom Coronavirus is the primary reason they have been admitted.

Figures released in London by the Government over Christmas, where the Omicron wave hit first, showed that, despite claims from those wishing to downplay Covid, between two-thirds and three-quarters patients in hospital with Covid were because the patient had Covid, rather than an unrelated reason and the patient tested positive for Covid-19 when they were admitted.

Bristol Live has asked both the North Bristol NHS Trust and the University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Trust for those figures for Bristol's hospitals, and they refused to release them.

The Government’s covid stats also do not show the percentage of patients in hospital with Covid, or in intensive care who are not fully vaccinated.

Individual hospital trusts and consultants have released those figures sporadically, and Government ministers have quoted figures to suggest that as many as 90 per cent of the people in intensive care have either not been vaccinated at all or not had their booster jabs.

Bristol City striker Antoine Semenyo gets his Covid booster jab in Nailsea, December 2021 (Rogan/JMP)

Bristol Live has asked both the North Bristol NHS Trust and the University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Trust what proportion of Covid patients in their Covid wards and in intensive care are not fully vaccinated, and both trusts have refused to release them.

With hospitals in Bristol under increasing pressures because of covid, staff shortages and delayed discharges, both the city’s main hospitals are increasingly sending covid patients to a ‘virtual hospital’ at home, where they are given monitoring equipment and stay in touch with doctors at the hospital who check on their recovery with the use of remote technology.

NHS bosses are also sending patients to a hotel - the Bristol Hotel on Prince Street - where they are being cared for by a private care company.

Bristol Live has asked both the North Bristol NHS Trust and the University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Trust whether covid patients in the ‘virtual hospital’ at home, or sent to a hotel are still counted in the figures it provides to the NHS covid data gatherers - ie, whether the 170 people recorded as having Covid-19 in Bristol’s hospitals on Tuesday included people with Covid in a hotel or at in a virtual hospital at home. Both trusts refused to reveal the answer.

Want our best stories with fewer ads and alerts when the biggest news stories drop? Download our app on iPhone or Android


What is inkl?

Important stories

See news based on value, not advertising potential. Get the latest news from around the world.

Trusted newsrooms

We bring you reliable news from the world’s most experienced journalists in the most trusted newsrooms.

Ad-free reading

Read without interruptions, distractions or intrusions of privacy.