CASES of coronavirus are surging in Manchester, the Government has warned – with intensive care beds set to run out “within weeks”.
The city was plunged into Tier 3 lockdown last night after talks between ministers and local leaders broke down.
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Figures suggest that intensive care units may not be as full as the government has suggested [/caption]
But is the situation in Manchester’s hospitals as bad as it looks?
Figures suggest that hospital admissions in the city are no higher than they were at the same time last year – pre-Covid pandemic.
It suggests that while infections are high in the area, they are not translating into more serious cases that require hospitalisation, and intensive care.
Experts and the statistics show the second wave of coronavirus is being fuelled by young people – predominantly in the late teens to early 20s – hence the spike in university cities like Nottingham, Manchester, Exeter and Liverpool.
But the fear is with many living in multi-generational households, infections among the young are starting to spread to the more vulnerable, older population.
Add that to the fact that the NHS reaches crisis point every winter, with flu and colder temperatures driving a surge in admissions, and the Government has used hospital capacity as a reason for imposing stricter lockdowns in part of the country.
But with a lack of adequate data – intensive care occupancy figures are not regularly published for example – it is hard to form an accurate picture.
Running out of beds?
The graph above shows hospital patients across the North West [/caption]
The latest PHE figures show that infection rates across the ten boroughs of Greater Manchester are all over 200 per 100,000 of the population.
Rochdale fairs worst with 476.6 cases per 100,000 in the seven days leading up to October 16 – the latest data available.
Meanwhile, Stockport has the lowest with 278.1 cases per 100,000.
Last night, at the Downing Street press conference, the public was told that the number of patients in intensive care in Manchester is around 40 per cent of numbers seen at the peak.
And the Prime Minister’s spokesman has warned that the “best case” scenario is that Covid patients will fill all intensive care beds in Greater Manchester by November 8, with hospital capacity surging by November 12.
Health secretary Matt Hancock said in the Commons last night: “The average daily hospital admissions in Greater Manchester are now higher than they were on March 26 and there are now more Covid-19 patients in Greater Manchester hospitals than in the whole of the South West and South East combined.”
Government data suggests Manchester University NHS Trust is already at 70 per cent occupancy, with 91 per cent of beds at Salford Royal NHS Foundation occupied.
People in Manchester will have further restrictions imposed on them from Friday[/caption]
However, it is not clear how many ICU beds in Greater Manchester are full because data on intensive care use is not routinely published.
The Health Service Journal has reported that the region has around 200 patients in critical care, compared with 300 at the height of the first peak.
Across the North West, Government figures show there were 167 Covid-19 patients in mechanical ventilation beds and 1,817 in hospitals on Monday.
That compares with 528 mechanically ventilated Covid-19 patients and 5,402 in hospital across England.
It is worth noting that this does not provide the full picture with regards to intensive care use.
Not all patients in ICU will need mechanical ventilation – the Prime Minister himself was admitted to critical care at St Thomas’s Hospital during his bout of Covid, but never needed the extreme intervention.
Meanwhile, these stats do not reveal how many non-Covid patients are in intensive care for other conditions.
ICU occupancy ‘similar to last year’
But looking at NHS England data for intensive care use this time last year – in a year with no Covid, and only a mild flu outbreak – suggests this might not be far off the norm.
This time last year, 87 per cent of Manchester’ ICU beds were full, while 96 per cent in Salford – which currently has an infection rate of 428.5 cases per 100,000 – were occupied, according to the Telegraph.
Meanwhile, across England as a whole, NHS England data shows that last October 3,339 of 4,125 adult critical care beds were full – that’s 80.9 per cent occupancy – in the pre-Covid world.
The Sun has contacted NHS England to obtain critical care bed figures from this year.
In the height of winter most intensive care units will hit closer to 90 to 100 per cent occupancy in normal years.
Earlier this week, Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham, accused the Government of using “selective statistics”.
He said: “Greater Manchester’s ICU occupancy rate is not abnormal for this time of the year and is comparable to the occupancy rate in October 2019.
“Providing information about individual hospitals does not reflect that our hospitals work as a system to manage demand.”
The graph above shows that hospital admissions in the North West are creeping up – but are nowhere near where they were at the peak of the pandemic[/caption]
‘We can cope’, says Manchester top doc
Professor Jane Eddleston, Greater Manchester’s medical lead, said while they are expecting a surge in capacity, the system can cope.
She said the Government figures don’t take into account the fact they can “bring more beds into play”.
This could mean transforming general wards into Covid ICU wards, as happened during the first peak.
But, the NHS is desperate to stop that happening this winter, because it will mean cancelling elective operations and treatment.
With grim projections suggesting up to 35,000 extra cancer patients could die this year alone, due to treatment and operations being cancelled during the first lockdown, it is a measure that must be avoided at all cost.
One other option to increase capacity is the Nightingale Hospitals, which were recently put on standby across the North of England.
Across England the Nightingales could double intensive care capacity from around 4,000 beds to 8,000.
Businesses will suffer
While the rest of the country eased out of lockdown at the end of July, tough restrictions remained on Greater Manchester – one of the first areas to experience a local lockdown.
Mr Burnham said that businesses and people will suffer if the harsh measures continue.
And another MP today highlighted that new Tier 3 rules will mean that residents in Manchester will be evicted from their homes and may end up sleeping rough.
Lisa Nandy this morning accused the government of “actively doing harm to its own citizens” and “not having our interests at heart” as Manchester was forced into Tier 3 lockdown.
Ms Nandy said the government had offered £22 million deal to “help survive this winter”, leaving locals in “complete shock” and workers facing homelessness.
Infections starting to fall in hotspots
Analysis from The Telegraph revealed that in the city centre, infections have been falling since the start of the month and are down around 20 per cent.
Cases are also down five per cent in areas such as Trafford and Stockport, while other areas such as Bury and Rochdale have seen an increase in the number of people testing positive.
Meanwhile, in comparison to Liverpool – the first area put into Tier 3 – figures show hospital admissions in Manchester are nowhere near those seen in Liverpool.
At Liverpool University NHS Trust, around 266 people a week are being admitted while this figure is just 66 at Manchester University Foundation Trust.
In Liverpool there have been 34 deaths recorded at Liverpool University NHS Trust in the last week and just eight at Manchester University Foundation.
Data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) earlier this week also showed there were just 39 more deaths in the week ending October 9 in the North West compared to the same time last year.
This equates to a 2.9 per cent increase on the five-year average.
Hard to see full picture
Experts have claimed that the amount of data being pushed out by various bodies makes it difficult to recognise what the increase in case numbers is actually being caused by.
Professor Sheila Bird, formerly programme leader of the MRC Biostatistics Unit at the University of Cambridge said weekly updates are needed in order to help the public understand the impact of the virus.
Last night England’s deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van-Tam showed the graphs as part of Boris Johnson’s national address on the latest in the UK’s battle against coronavirus.
While the graphs, especially for areas in the North of the country, looked dramatic, Prof Van-Tam highlighted that it was also spreading across Yorkshire and The Humber and the Midlands.
Other graphs also revealed that the rate of infection in England is actually falling compared to where it was at the start of the month.
Rates in England for the week up to October 6 show huge parts of the country were overwhelmed by rising cases.
Almost all areas except for the South West had infection rates which were soaring.
But a fresh graph from the week up to October 14 show a more positive picture.
Huge parts of England are dotted with light green showing cases have begun to fall.
Professor Van Tam last night added: “In contrast, the rate of change is more variable and there are more patches of green – indicating a negative rate of change – as there are new patches of dark brown, such as in places like Lincolnshire.”