A leading doctor at Bradford Royal Infirmary (BR) has said more people are admitted to hospital with mental health issues than before, and that more people are unwell with non-Covid-19 illnesses because of the “pressure of the pandemic”.
Dr Jacob Mushlin, an AED Consultant at BRI has said that the hospital is under “enormous pressure” due to staff absences and the influx of Omicron cases in the district.
Yesterday in Bradford and Keighley – the latest figures – 999 people tested positive for Covid-19 and 9,773 people have tested positive in the past seven days. On 9 January – the latest figures from the NHS – 11 people were admitted to the hospital, and 117 people were admitted in the past seven days, up 143% from the previous week.
Last month, a total of 1,876,791 people were admitted to A&E in England, and in Bradford, 10,393 people were admitted to the accident and emergency department.
Dr Mushlin, who has worked as a consultant in Bradford since 2016, said: “Things have changed drastically in the past two years.
“From the initial struggles against the virus in 2020 to a massive peak in ill health when Covid-19 subsided over summer and now the new pressures from the Omicron variant.
“We still get a large people of non-Covid-19 illnesses, possibly more than pre-pandemic as well as the new wave of cases.”
The reason why there is an increase in non-Covid-19 illnesses is due to the “pressures people have been under due to the pandemic”, the consultant said.
He added: “We are particularly worried about people with mental health conditions as more people than before the pandemic are coming through our doors.”
The number of Covid-19 patients at BRI is also concerning, with the same number of people in the hospital with the virus now than at the end of the first wave in the summer of 2020.
Before Christmas, the hospital had around 40-45 covid-19 patients and it now stands at around 100, matching the number of people at BRI infected with the virus at the end of the first wave.
The doctor said: “My experience is that Omicron spreads more rapidly than other variants but in vaccinated patients, it is less serious. We still do see very seriously ill patients with Omicron who have not been vaccinated.”
Professor Mel Pickup, chief executive of Bradford Teaching Hospitals, said: “The number of people in our hospitals with Covid-19 has now reached the same level that we saw during the first wave of the pandemic.
“As the new year began, Covid-19 was the reason behind a third of staff sickness absences in the Trust.”
Scientists and researchers from Denmark estimate that the risk of infection with the Omicron variant is about 2.7 to 3.7 times more than the delta variant among vaccinated and boosted individuals.
However, they also found for unvaccinated people, there was no significant difference in rates of infection between delta and omicron. Indicating that both variants are about at the same level of transmissibility among people who are not vaccinated.
In response to the influx of Omicron cases to Bradford, BRI has introduced strict visiting policies for patients. Patients who are in non-Covid-19 wards are only allowed one designated visitor per their stay, and they are only allowed to visit twice a week for an hour.
Karen Dawber, chief nurse At Bradford Teaching Hospitals, said: “There are two main changes to our visiting rules.
The first is that you are only allowed one named person to visit you. The second change is that we are asking everybody coming to visit somebody in the hospital to take a lateral flow test, that needs to be taken just before you visit. You need to bring the results as you visit to show to staff on the wards.”
Despite the pressures on A&E and its staff, people are still encouraged to use the service but are warned that there may be a long wait.
In December, 27% of patients had to wait longer than four hours in A&E, matching the national average.
However, 35% of patients were without a bed on a ward within four hours of being admitted which is higher than the national average of 32% and more than nine percent higher than in December 2019.
Dr Mushlin added: “At A&E we are open for people with emergencies, particularly if they have already contacted 111 and their GP, but people need to be prepared that we are very busy, and they may be waiting a long time.
“When somebody is in the waiting room, they don’t see the twenty or thirty people who are in resus or our high-dependency areas. I would recommend, if possible, people use their GPS, the 111 service, and local pharmacists and opticians before coming into A &E.”
Most GPs are now offering face-to-face and digital appointments and pharmacists can treat ailments and can recommend medications. In Bradford, there is a minor eye condition service that can see people within 24 hours and have access to specialist eye health provisions from the hospital.
Patients and their visitors are also being encouraged to be kind to NHS staff as stretched services from absence is causing fatigue and burnout in doctors, nurses, and administration staff.
The clinic lead for A&E added: “Burnout is a constant worry and something that contributes to staff sickness. We are trying to combat burnout in staff in A&E but that is difficult given the current pressures that the staff are under.
“One of the greatest challenges that our staff find is receiving violence, aggression, or abuse from patients, but this happens daily. I urge patients and their families to be kind to NHS staff.”
For the latest information on visiting rules to the hospitals across Bradford or for more information, please visit Bradford Hospital’s website, here.