Leeds experiencing 'record demand' across all health services amid growing impact of Covid-19
Leeds health services are experiencing record levels of demand across the city as the growing impact of the Covid-19 pandemic continues to take its toll.
New figures show A&E attendances at Leeds Teaching Hospitals Trust (LTHT) increased by 10.9 per cent from April to June 2021 when compared with the same period in 2019.
A report to the July governing body meeting of NHS Leeds Clinical Commissioning Group said LTHT has the “highest bed occupancy in England” as well as the “highest number of people in an acute bed for over 21 days”.
It also said the trust has “the highest number of people waiting four to 12 hours for a bed”.
This is against the backdrop of what are still rising numbers of Covid-19 patients attending the city’s hospitals.
The Yorkshire Evening Post understands there are 102 patients with Covid-19 at the trust - more than double that of two weeks ago - including 14 patients in critical care.
Figures in the CCG report also show Leeds’s urgent treatment centres have seen increasing numbers of patients since the easing of lockdown earlier this year - with a 10 per cent rise at the Wharfedale site in June 2021, compared to June 2019, and a two per cent rise at St George’s in Middleton.
GPs across the city have also seen “very high demand” for patients, it said, with surgeries offering 15 per cent more appointments in March 2021 compared to March 2019.
Analysis of NHS Digital data by the Yorkshire Evening Post shows that in May alone, the city’s GP practices experienced 375,873 recorded consultations - which is higher than pre-pandemic levels.
Over half of these, 222,846, were face-to-face appointments, including 37,048 which were same-day face-to-face consultations. A further 58,625 were same-day telephone consultations.
The figures also show over 23,000 patients waited between eight and 14 days for a face-to-face appointment with practice staff in May and a total of 9,575 patients waited over 28 days for an appointment, either over the phone, virtual, home visit or face-to-face.
The CCG governing body report said paediatric attendances at emergency departments had also seen a 26 per cent rise in June 2021 compared with June 2019, with warnings by NHS England to anticipate further increases in childhood respiratory infections over the summer.
Figures for the Yorkshire Ambulance Service show a five per cent rise in 999 calls in June 2021 compared to June 2019.
And the report said the Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, which provides mental health and learning disability services, had been reporting “successive weeks and months of very high inpatient demand”.
The city’s health and social care system, it said, was experiencing “unprecedented demand on all of its services” - but it stressed this was not unique to Leeds or even West Yorkshire.
The report said the current pressure represents the growing impact of the predicted long-term effects of the pandemic, “including psychological trauma, mental illness, economic injury and burnout” combined with the immediate impact of those whose healthcare has been interrupted.
The issues were the focus of a city-wide summit, on June 30, attended by health and social care chiefs from NHS organisations across Leeds together with GPs, community pharmacy, Yorkshire Ambulance Service and data specialists.
An action plan is now underway to address the pressures which includes increasing clinical assessment tools to reduce 111 referrals to A&E, increasing primary care capacity by using the £1.7m Covid recovery fund for Leeds, improving the mental health crisis offer, as well as rapid improvement work on hospital discharge, implementing a ‘same day emergency care unit’ on the site of St James’ Hospital and extending virtual wards to manage more patients at home.
Dr Jason Broch, GP and clinical chair for NHS Leeds CCG, said GP practices continue to offer routine and urgent medical care and use new ways of working to help maintain safety for staff and patients.
He said: “Since March 2020, the challenges faced by the NHS have been unprecedented and GP practices across the city have worked hard to continue to care for their patients.
“Throughout the pandemic, all our practices have remained open and have been seeing patients face-to-face, as well as increasing consultation capacity by offering extensive telephone and video appointments.
“Alongside this many practices are continuing to deliver the Covid vaccination programme, vaccinating hundreds of thousands of Leeds residents.”
He added: “We are very proud, in Leeds, of the care and quality of the services we provide to our patients; increasing consultation capacity in a period of extremely high demand whilst adapting to new guidance and technology.
“As, always, we respect people’s concerns and just ask for kindness to our practice staff and wider NHS workers, #BeKind.”
Dr Phil Wood, Chief Medical Officer at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “Along with the rest of the NHS we are seeing an increase in patients admitted to our hospitals with COVID-19.
"This is alongside the record demand for emergency care we have been seeing over the last few weeks, and the increase in planned operations we are carrying out for those patients who have been waiting.
“We are reviewing everyone who arrives at our emergency departments, and ensuring those who are seriously ill and need admission to hospital are treated promptly.
“If we continue to see an increase of patients with COVID-19 we have plans in place to respond whilst trying to limit the impact this may have on our planned operations.
“We are committed to achieving timely and safe care for all our patients and we encourage them to seek the right care in the right place at the right time.”
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