East London Covid-19 death surge causing 'dangerous' stress for council staff

Queen's Hospital, Rom Valley Way, Romford

Two-thirds of hospital deaths in Havering were Covid-related in the last week of November, official figures have revealed. - Credit: Archant

The Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust (BHRUT) is set to spend Christmas battling an overwhelming surge in Covid-19 cases.  

NHS figures show the trust exceeded 300 beds occupied by coronavirus patients on Tuesday, December 15, for the first time.  

There were 304 Covid-19 patients at BHRUT’s hospitals – up 28 per cent on the week before, when there had been 238. 

The following day, December 16, Havering Council’s head of bereavement and registration services Louise Roast said staff were “exhausted” and “inundated with medical calls for death certificates”. 

The trust has since postponed all non-urgent outpatient appointments, to help cope with the volume of Covid-19 cases it is receiving, Havering Council has announced.  

Hospitalisation and death figures are typically one or two weeks behind infection figures, as the disease takes time to become severe – so hospitalisation and death rates look set to become even worse in the coming weeks. 

In the week up to December 16, all three boroughs saw infection rates more than double.  

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Havering rose 102pc in seven days, to 1,036 cases per 100,000 people.  

Barking and Dagenham rose 117pc to 839 per 100,000.  

Redbridge rose 122pc, to 896 per 100,000. 

On Saturday, December 19, Boris Johnson said he had seen evidence that a new strain of Covid-19, up to 70pc more contagious, was ripping through London and the home counties, leaving him with no choice other than to cancel a planned relaxation of coronavirus restrictions over Christmas. 

Havering Council leader Damian White warned at the weekend that hospitals were already inundated. 

He said: “Our local hospitals are at and above capacity, our registrars service are seeing a significant increase in death registration – which is having a deeply personal impact on them and putting stress levels at dangerous highs, and local funeral directors are reporting more demand than they can cope with.” 

Update: 10.40am, Dec 23:

Shelagh Smith, chief operating officer at BHRUT, said: "Emergency surgeries and urgent cancer care will continue whilst non-urgent appointments are rescheduled so we can look after increasing numbers of Covid-19 patients who need our care. 

"This is why it remains vitally important that we all play our part and be careful over Christmas."

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